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This is where I post various musings about wildlife and ecology, observations of interesting species (often invertebrates)
and bits of research that grab my attention. As well as blogging, I undertake professional ecological & wildlife surveys
covering invertebrates, plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and some mammals, plus habitat assessment and management
advice
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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Beetles love big butts and they cannot lie

Spring means many things - for many species overwintering adults re-emerge and set about the important business of reproduction. One common species that is often seen doing this is the green dock beetle Gastrophysa viridula. It feeds mainly on broad-leaved dock Rumex obtusifolius and related species and in April/May patches of dock can be seen with large numbers of these beetles. Such groups can be highly localised however - one patch of dock can have hundreds of beetles while a nearby patch on the same site seems to have none, possibly due to adults clustering for mate-finding purposes - it is not due to mobility as they can fly. Mating is a competitive activity though as males may try to dislodge rivals, and have foot-pads. These appear white around the sides of the tarsi (feet) to help them grip the female.

Two male G. viridula compete for one female.
Gastrophysa viridula as they are often found - a mating pair.
A dislodged male G. viridula draws its legs in for protection.
The females are particularly distinctive as they have swollen abdomens which extend beyong the elytra (wing cases). There are two or more generations per year (possibly up to six depending on temperature and other conditions) and the oval yellowish eggs can be seen in small clusters. The first new adults emerge in June and others appear through to September. They then overwinter from October to April.

Eggs of G. viridula.
Female G. viridula showing the swollen black abdomen.
The adults chew roundish holes in dock leaves, but the black larvae can skeletonise whole leaves until just a network of veins is left. For this reason, where certain Rumex species are considered invasive, G. viridula has been suggested as a potential biological control, though as ever introducing non-native species needs to be considered very carefully to avoid unwanted impacts on native species.

G. viridula larvae feeding on dock leaf.

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