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Welcome to the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre

Coronavirus: How SxBRC is responding
As of 17th March, SxBRC staff are working from home for the foreseeable future. We are putting systems in place to enable SxBRC to continue functioning as near normally as possible. However, there might be some disruption to our services - so please bear with us while we all get used to these new ways of working.
If you need to contact SxBRC, please send us an email. You can find all our email addresses on the team page. Our telephone system is not currently set up to work remotely, so we would ask that you don't phone.

NBN

Click here to access the NBN web page that collates published guidance from a number of organisations in respect of biological recording and survey work during COVID‑19 restrictions.

Species records: 7,677,730

June species of the month: The parasitic fly Phasia hemiptera

The parasitic fly <i>Phasia hemiptera</i>

Phasia hemiptera (Diptera: Tachinidae) is a large and unusual-looking fly which, in the male sex, has very distinctively shaped and coloured wings which it is suggested make it look rather like a member of the order Hemiptera (hence the specific name of the species).

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Upcoming recording events:

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Events Calendar »

Welcome to the website of the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre, one of the many local environmental record centres situated around the UK. We provide environmental information services encompassing biodiversity, geodiversity and other aspects of Sussex’s natural capital. We cover the two counties of East and West Sussex, including Brighton & Hove, in South East England. We are a small but dedicated team of environmental data managers, naturalists and IT specialists.

The Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre is managed as a partnership project, hosted by the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Our partners include local planning authorities, government agencies, conservation bodies and other organisations which need access to up-to-date biodiversity information, such as water companies.

Sussex has a vibrant and energetic biological recording community with many independent recording groups and societies. By strengthening relationships with these groups, and the wider network of naturalists, ecologists and recording schemes active in Sussex, the Record Centre facilitates sharing of ever-greater amounts of biodiversity data.

Upcoming recording events:

No events in the calendar for the week ahead.

Events Calendar »

Species records: 7,677,730

June species of the month: The parasitic fly Phasia hemiptera

The parasitic fly <i>Phasia hemiptera</i>

Phasia hemiptera (Diptera: Tachinidae) is a large and unusual-looking fly which, in the male sex, has very distinctively shaped and coloured wings which it is suggested make it look rather like a member of the order Hemiptera (hence the specific name of the species).

More »

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Latest news

The Striped Summer Chafer - discovery of a beetle new to the UK mainland

21 May 2020

Rhizotrogus aestivus - Striped Summer Chafer

Rhizotrogus aestivus (Striped Summer Chafer),
Attracted to light on 25/04/2020 in Newhaven
Photo: Steven Teale

Rhizotrogus aestivus - Striped Summer Chafer

Rhizotrogus aestivus (Striped Summer Chafer),
Attracted to light on 25/04/2020 in Newhaven
Photo: Steven Teale

Rhizotrogus aestivus - Striped Summer Chafer

Rhizotrogus aestivus (Striped Summer Chafer),
A cluster of four males around a female, Poverty Bottom, 20/04/2020
Photo: Steven Teale

Rhizotrogus aestivus - Striped Summer Chafer

Rhizotrogus aestivus (Striped Summer Chafer),
Attracted to light on 25/04/2020 in Newhaven
Photo: Steven Teale

Rhizotrogus aestivus - Striped Summer Chafer

Rhizotrogus aestivus (Striped Summer Chafer),
Attracted to light on 25/04/2020 in Newhaven
Photo: Steven Teale

Rhizotrogus aestivus - Striped Summer Chafer

Rhizotrogus aestivus (Striped Summer Chafer),
A cluster of four males around a female, Poverty Bottom, 20/04/2020
Photo: Steven Teale

This month it has been confirmed that a beetle which was previously unknown in the UK outside of the Channel Islands is alive and thriving in Newhaven, East Sussex.

The beetle, Rhizotrogus aestivus, is a chafer similar in appearance to the familiar Summer Chafer (Amphimallon solstitialis), but smaller and less hairy. Like many other chafer species, it feeds as a larva on the roots of plants. Adults of the Striped Summer Chafer appear slightly earlier in the year than other closely related species, from April until June. As the name suggets, the wing-cases have a stripe running along them.

The adults appear shortly after sunset each night and are active for only about 25 minutes before settling down again. During this short time the males search for females, which perch low down on grass stems and appear to produce pheromones to attract the males. Although this chafer is much less clumsy than Cockchafers and Summer Chafers, it is still quite clumsy and can take some time to home in on a female. Clusters of several amorous males can be found clambering over a female and, where more than one female is in the same patch of ground, up to several dozen males have been found in a scrum around them.

The story of their discovery is rather unusual and slightly embarrassing. The first indivudual recorded in 2020 was attracted to a light trap I run each night in my Newhaven back garden. This is the embarrassing bit: I had been catching this chafer for at least two years, maybe even three or four, but passing it off as a Summer Chafer. It was only because the first one this year turned up on 20th April that I realised I had been wrong. It took several days of searching to find that it resembled Rhizotrogus aestivus. It was only when I checked the NBN Atlas and found no records of the species that I began to think it might be a special find. This was my email on 27th April to Bob Foreman at the SxBRC and Graeme Lyons:

“I’ve been recording Rhizotrogus aestivus in my moth trap for a few years, but have never bothered to record them. I saw today that there don’t appear to be any records on the NBN Atlas, so I thought I’d check whether this species of interest to you. If it is I’ll start recording it!”

After an initial flurry of excitement, Graeme forwarded my photos onto the national specialist for scarab beetles, Darren Mann. Darren was confident that the ID was correct, but needed to see the beetles up close. This was arranged and, on 12th May, Darren wrote:

“You’ll be pleased to hear that they are indeed Rhizotrogus aestivus (A.G. Olivier, 1789), I’ve given it a common name ‘striped summer chafer’ , by the numbers you’re seeing (as long as they’ve been confirmed by you) it can be given a status of ‘Established Introduction’.”

In the meantime I had checked back through my records and realised, to my shame, that I had not bothered to record when I’d found it in my trap in the past. The oldest record I could find was of one photographed at the end of April 2019 in Fort Road, Newhaven by my friend Sue Cross. This is the first sighting we can make a record from.

The discovery of this species is remarkable for a few reasons. Firstly, it is rare for such a large, conspicuous and charismatic beetle to have been overlooked until now. It is most likely that it hitched a lift, possibly on more than one occasion, on a boat across the English Channel rather than making the journey under its own steam, this being because of its bulk and poor command of the air. This is not uncommon; newly colonising species are often first recorded around ports such as Newhaven.

The astonishing thing about this previously unknown beetle is that we have found it in its thousands and in all places with well established grassland between Cliff Road in Peacehaven to the west and Poverty Bottom in the east. This area covers six tetrads. It could have colonised the area around Newhaven many years ago. Further searches will be made this year, so it might be even more widespread than we have already found.

It would be especially interesting if anyone else comes across this beetle while out just after sunset, or if it is attracted to a light trap. Please report this to Bob Foreman ( bobforeman@sussexwt.org.uk), along with a photograph, if you do.

Steven Teale

 

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