Insect Week: Scientists record first spiny cistus beetle in UK

The discovery of the cistus leaf beetle (Dicladispa testaceous) is the first time the species has been recorded in Britain. It was identified from adult beetles on its namesake plant – cistus (Cistus) – in a Surrey garden. The beetle is only 5mm long and its orange-brown body is covered in black spines, giving it a striking appearance when viewed up close.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Gardening Advice Service has received photos from a gardener keen to find out what the mysterious beetles might be. Photos and adult beetles taken from the garden were used by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to confirm the RHS identification, marking the first time the beetle has been recorded in Britain. The RHS consulted the collections of the Natural History Museum to compare historical records of spiny cistus in Europe. The spiny cistus beetle is one of many species whose range has changed due to anthropogenic climate change and habitat modification.

The spiny cistus beetle is found across much of Europe, and the scientists behind the recent identification believe it is likely to spread and become established in areas where cistus, it -even introduced from the Mediterranean, is common. There is no record of economic, environmental or societal damage caused by the beetle in its native range, therefore no action has been recommended by the government agency.

Max Barclay, senior curator of beetles at the Natural History Museum in London and co-author of the paper, said: “Due to climate change and global trade, there are increasing opportunities for new species to arrive and become established in the UK.”

At the Natural History Museum we monitor the arrival and spread of non-native species in the UK. Although this species is not a threat to native species, monitoring changes can help us predict the effects of climate and habitat change on natural ecosystems.

Dr Andrew Salisbury, lead entomologist for the RHS and co-author of the paper, said: “We were very intrigued to receive the reports of the spiny cistus beetle, as it was not a species that was expected to appear in this country. The spiny appearance of this beetle is very distinctive, and we were delighted to identify it as the first record for Britain.

This species does not pose a threat to native gardens and plants and can be seen as an addition to the biodiversity found on our back doorstep and to the curb appeal of our gardens. Likewise, it is a reminder of the importance of checks and controls when importing plants to increase biosecurity and protect plant health, as not all new arrivals will be equally harmless.

The discovery underscores the importance of species monitoring to help better understand species population trends and protect native wildlife. The Natural History Museum runs regular community science projects working with the public to record wildlife sightings across the UK.

Find out how you can participate in the Museum’s latest project, “Fly Finder” and other ways to record species here.


Notes for Editors

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Images available for download here.

About the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is both a world-renowned scientific research center and the most visited indoor attraction in the UK last year. With a vision of a future in which people and the planet thrive, he is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing the needs of humanity with those of the natural world.

It is the custodian of one of the world’s largest scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens accessed by researchers around the world both in person and through over 30 billion digital data downloads to date. The Museum’s 350 scientists are finding solutions to the planetary emergency, from the loss of biodiversity to the sustainable extraction of natural resources.

The Museum uses its global reach and influence to fulfill its mission to create Earth Defenders – to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome millions of visitors through our doors each year, our website received 17 million visits last year and our traveling exhibitions have been viewed by approximately 20 million people over the past 10 years.

About the ERS

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) was founded in 1804 and is the UK’s largest gardening charity.

The vision of RHS is to enrich everyone’s life through plants and to make the UK a greener and more beautiful place through its inspiring gardens and sights, scientific research and advice, extensive library collections and its extensive educational and community programs. With over 600,000 members, the RHS also shares its horticultural knowledge and expertise with millions of people each year through its website and publications.

In 2021, the RHS launched its sustainability strategy, pledging to be positive for nature and people by 2030. The RHS Planet-Friendly Gardening support campaign will continue to harness the power of the 30 million gardeners of the UK to help tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis. .

We are solely funded by our members, visitors and supporters.

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