Record Centre News

Privet Sawfly - A Sussex first

Macrophya punctumalbum

In the hedge a couple of metres from our back door in Sedlescombe, East Sussex (TQ782188) I have recently seen several examples of the rather handsome Privet Sawfly (Macrophya punctumalbum) wandering about on the leaves. 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 in our hedge before as I usually walk past it several times a day. It may have cycles of relative abundance and scarcity.

The larvae feed on ash, privet (Ligustrum vulgare), 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 in the wider countryside the eye is drawn on to more interesting looking sites. It also provides a little exercise for the relatively housebound. The piece of hedge where these sawflies occur does not look a particularly promising spot though wild privet and ash grow together there.

Patrick Roper 7th June 2016