Sunday 19 May
Noble chafer (Gnorimus nobilis)
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Noble chafer fact file
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Noble chafer description
This chafer is a very attractive insect. It has a metallic-green body which is speckled with white. The whole body displays a brilliant iridescence which can flash copper, gold and even violet when the light strikes it. The noble chafer resembles a much more common species called the rose chafer (Cetonia aurata). The principal differences between them are that the middle and hind legs of the noble chafer are smooth whereas they are 'toothed' on the rose chafer, and a small triangular area between the wing cases forms an equilateral triangle on the noble chafer but is elongated on the rose chafer. The rose chafer is also a much smoother-looking insect than the noble chafer.
- Body length (adult): 15-19 mm
Noble chafer biology
The adult chafer appears around May and is on the wing until August. Females lay their eggs on rotting wood on the trunks of old trees, in the UK usually fruit trees. They show a preference for 'stone and pome' types, that is cherry and plum, and apple and pear. However, it also occurs on oak trees in the New Forest, and in Europe it is associated with ancient oaks. The grubs grow to a length of 30 mm and take two years to grow to the stage where they pupate.Top
Noble chafer range
This species is widely distributed throughout Europe as far north as southern Scandinavia, although it appears to be declining over much of its European range. In Britain it has been rare for over a century and has declined in range in recent years. At present, it is recorded from the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire, from orchards in various parts of Worcestershire, and from Oxfordshire.Top
Noble chafer habitat
The noble chafer is a species associated with dead wood. Where it occurs in Europe, it is a beetle of open, deciduous woods and forests. In the UK, however, the most numerous populations are found around old fruit orchards. During the day, the adult beetles are often found feeding on nectar and pollen on flower heads, especially umbellifers.Top
Noble chafer status
Classified as Vulnerable in the UK.Top
Noble chafer threats
The noble chafer is declining in the UK through a loss of its habitat, especially from the grubbing out of old orchards and the replacement of old trees. It is also believed that the spraying of weed species in orchard grassland, has resulted in fewer pollen and nectar sources to sustain the adult beetles.Top
Noble chafer conservation
This beetle is listed as a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) species and is also part of English Nature's Species Recovery Programme (SRP). With a grant from the SRP, the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), which is leading a campaign to restore the fortunes of this species, are undertaking a series of surveys to establish the number of populations that still exist in Britain and to identify the key sites. It has become apparent that the greatest concentration of noble chafers is found on the site of the old fruit orchards in Worcestershire. Old orchards, as a habitat, are under threat in the UK through changes in agricultural practices and because the large retail stores are increasingly sourcing their fruit from overseas. Many old orchards are being bulldozed as traditional fruit growing becomes uneconomical. This, together with the disappearance of wood pasture and the habit of 'tidying up' many other rotten trees, has reduced the opportunities for these chafers to find suitable breeding sites. Funding is being offered through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme to encourage the owners of orchards to retain their old, rotten trees. Some orchards where the chafer has been found have been included in the notification of the Wyre Forest Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and agreed management plans have been produced in an attempt to maintain the noble chafer populations.
From time to time, chafers are recorded from other places, away from the known population sites, and it is likely that other colonies of this species exist. Because of its similarity to the rose chafer, it is tricky to identify noble chafers without a close inspection. There have been a number of sightings around orchards in Oxfordshire so there is a population of chafers somewhere in this area.However, it is hoped that, by conserving their 'old English' habitats, and with greater public awareness, more populations of this attractive beetle will be discovered and protected. The campaigning group, Common Ground, have incorporated the noble chafer into their logo as part of their campaign to highlight the disappearance of old orchards.Top
Find out more
For further information on this species, see:
People's Trust for Endangered Species:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- The process of forming a pupa, the stage in an insect's development, when huge changes occur that reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis.
- A plant family characterised by heavily divided leaves and by carrying its flowers in clusters on a number of stalks (known as umbels), which spring from a common centre. Well-known members include carrot and celery.
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