Cionus alauda (Herbst, 1784)
A locally common species throughout central and southern Europe, extending north into the UK, Germany and Poland but otherwise generally absent from the Baltic countries, also known from many of the Mediterranean islands as well as Madeira and parts of North Africa. In the south it is represented by ssp. villae Comolli, 1837, which seems to differ only in being more reddish in colour but may be eventually differentiated by molecular studies as forming a distinct species. In the UK the species is generally common across southern and central England, including the islands, and very local and rare further north to the Scottish Highlands, it occurs very locally and mostly on the coast in Wales but is not recorded from Ireland. Adults are present year-round, they are active from April until August and peak in abundance during May and June, any found later than this are likely to be from the new generation and these will overwinter among litter or moss etc. near to their host plants. The species is oligophagous on various Scrophulariaceae, especially on Common Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa L.) and Water Figwort (S. auriculata L.) but also recorded from Italian Figwort (S. alpestris J. Gay), Mediterranean Figwort (S. peregrina L.), Green Figwort (S. umbrosa Dumort) and other members of the genus, as well as Black Mullein (Verbascum nigrum L.), Greater Mullein (V. thapsus L.), Moth Mullein (V. blattaria L.), Water Mudwort (Limosella aquatica L.) and, possibly, Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii Franch.) After emerging in the spring adults ascend host plants to feed on the underside of lower leaves where they cause characteristic small holes. Mating occurs after a period of feeding and mated females soon begin to chew out small cavities on the underside of leaves, usually near to the edge, where they lay small batches of eggs and plug the holes with mucus and leaf debris afterwards. The small pale brown and slug-like larvae emerge soon after and feed externally on the underside of leaves, they remove the outer epidermis producing characteristic brownish patches, they pass through three instars and when fully-grown move down the stem and enter the soil where they will pupate in silken cocoon. New generation adults appear from July or August and there is a single generation each year. Adults occur wherever the host plants are common, often on damp soil at woodland or arable margins and they may be common on wetland margins.
Cionus alauda 1
Cionus alauda 2
Cionus alauda 3
2.8-3.5mm. (Smallest European member of the genus.) Very distinctive among our fauna and so not likely to be confused with any other species; the narrow forebody and broad, almost quadrate elytra coupled with the dorsal colour will identify this species. Head with large convex eyes and long diverging temples which are usually retracted within the thorax, interocular distance only slightly less than the rostral width at the base. Pronotum broadest at acute posterior angles and converging to a narrow apical margin, basal margin rather strongly sinuate, surface with dense pale scales but for a semi-circular dark patch at the base. Elytra mottles pale and darker grey except for a dark marking along the base of the third interstice, a transverse discal macula which usually extends across two or three interstices and the usual subapical spot. Legs pale brownish with grey scales throughout. Femora toothed below. Claws fused at the base and unequal in length, especially in males.