Friday, June 03, 2016

House Circuit (8) Privet sawfly

In the hedge a couple of metres from our back door I have recently seen several examples of the rather handsome privet sawfly (Macrophya punctumalbum).  I have not come across this here or anywhere else and have been unable to find any previous records from Sussex.

There is a thin spread of records across the southern part of Britain and it is widespread in Surrey, so it is probably simply under-recorded in Sussex, though I am surprised I have not seen it here before. It may have cycles of relative abundance and scarcity.

The larvae feed on ash, privet, lilac and other members of the Oleaceae family and, rather unusually for insects of this kind, the adults browse on leaves of the same plants.  There is a characteristic grazed patch towards the top right of the picture above.  The picture is of a female and while males are found occasionally, the species is said to be mainly parthenogenetic.

This record, which may be a first for Sussex, shows the value of walking round the house several times a day and looking out for anything interesting.  It helps one to see things that would otherwise have been missed as elsewhere the eye is drawn on to more interesting looking sites.  The piece of hedge where these sawflies occur does not look a particularly promising spot though wild privet and ash grow together there.

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