Rainbow leaf beetle (Chrysolina cerealis)

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Rainbow leaf beetle
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Rainbow leaf beetle fact file

Rainbow leaf beetle description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderColeoptera
FamilyChrysomelidae
GenusChrysolina (1)

The rainbow leaf beetle is arguably one of the most beautiful beetles in Britain. Its common name refers to the longitudinal bands of green, purple and red on the wing cases or 'elytra' (4). Males are generally smaller and more slender than females (2).

Size
Length: 5.5 - 10 mm (2)
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Rainbow leaf beetle biology

Both larvae and adults feed on wild thyme, and show a preference for the flowers. Larvae have been found during the day on plants growing in crevices, and beneath stones (3). Adults are present from April to September, and eggs are laid during June. It is thought that the larval stage overwinters, as larvae have been found in September and October, but young adults may also overwinter (5).

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Rainbow leaf beetle range

Despite exhaustive searches, there are few known populations of this beetle, although it is difficult to find (3). In the UK, this endangered beetle is currently known only from Caernarvonshire in Wales; since 1980 it has been recorded from Snowdon and Cwm Idwal. Elsewhere the species is found in northern, central and southern Europe (3).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Rainbow leaf beetle habitat

This beetle is found in mountainous grassland areas over 630m above sea level (3). Populations are localised to areas where flushing produces base-rich grassland characterised by an abundance of wild thyme in the sward (5).

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Rainbow leaf beetle status

Classified as Endangered in the UK and protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (3).

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Rainbow leaf beetle threats

There is no evidence that this beetle has undergone a decline; it may be that it has always been scarce. The threats facing this species are not clear, but many montane invertebrates are thought to be at risk from climate change (3).

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Rainbow leaf beetle conservation

The rainbow leaf beetle is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP), and is protected under schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (3). Cwm Idwal and Snowdon are National Nature Reserves, and so receive a degree of protection. The Snowdon population of this beetle is being monitored by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), and the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology is using this beetle as part of an investigation into the effects of climate change on montane invertebrates (3).

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

The UK BAP Species Action Plan for the rainbow leaf beetle is available on-line from:
http://www.ukbap.org.uk

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Authentication

Information authenticated by Adrian Fowles of the Countryside Council for Wales:
http://www.ccw.gov.uk

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Glossary

Elytra
In beetles and earwigs, the hard fore wings. They are held aloft when the insect flies, and are often coloured or patterned.
Larvae
Stage in an animal's lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
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References

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (Jan 2003): http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Harde, K. W. (2000) A field guide in colour to beetles. Silverdale Books, Leicester.
  3. UK BAP Species Action Plan (March 2003): http://www.ukbap.org.uk
  4. Joy, N. H. (1949) British beetles: their homes and habits. Frederick Warne & Co Ltd., London.
  5. Buse, A. (1993). Life-cycle and behaviour of the British population of Chrysolina cerealis (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae): the implications for survival. Entomologist, 112: 105-117.
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Image credit

Rainbow leaf beetle  
Rainbow leaf beetle

© Countryside Council for Wales

Countryside Council for Wales
Plas Penrhos
Ffordd Penrhos
Bangor
Gwynedd
LL57 2LQ
United Kingdom
a.fowles@ccw.gov.uk
http://www.ccw.gov.uk/

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