Cryptocephalus moraei (Linnaeus, 1758)
This widespread Palaearctic species is locally common throughout Europe north to the UK and southern provinces of Fennoscandia and east through Russia and Asia Minor to western parts of Siberia, in the UK it is widespread in the south below The Wash although generally absent from the west Country and sporadic and rare further north to the Scottish border. The typical habitat is calcareous grassland with an abundant mixture of herbaceous vegetation, especially on dry hillsides exposed to the sun but adults may also be swept from similar biotopes on road verges and embankments, heathland and woodland and wetland margins. Adults occur between May and September, peaking in June and July and only seen occasionally later, they are associated with a range of herbaceous plants including various Hypericum and Galium but more especially perforate St. John’s wort, H. perforatum L. they feed on leaves and pollen and on the continent have been reported as a pest of poplars. Mating occurs in the spring after a period of feeding and females oviposit over several weeks, they are fecund and each may produce several hundred eggs, typical of the group each egg is encased in secretions and excrement and dropped to the ground. Larvae emerge after two weeks or so, they feed through the summer and are well-grown by autumn, they will continue to feed through the winter, albeit more slowly and not during the coldest spells, and are fully-grown by early spring. During April or May the larva attaches its case to a leaf, seals the opening with excrement and pupates within. Adults eclose between two and four weeks after pupation, depending upon the temperature, and begin feeding after a brief period of hardening, they are fully-winged and capable of flight and so might occur in any suitable habitat. The best way to sample adults is by sweeping suitable habitats during warm weather although they generally occur as single specimens or in small numbers and extensive sweeping of suitably host material may be required.
Adults are quite distinctive among our fauna and may be recognized by their bicoloured pattern; entirely shiny black with yellow or creamy markings as follows, two variable but usually elongate streaks on the head which are usually united in the male, a narrow margin to the anterior edge of the pronotum, rather broad triangular markings to the pronotal angles (the anterior marking usually absent in the female) which may join narrowly along the lateral margin, and two variable but usually well-defined areas on each elytron, one behind the shoulder which usually continues along the lateral margin, and another across the apex. These can vary widely and varieties etc. have been named e.g. in ab. nigellus Burlini, 1955 the apical spots are missing. Head and pronotum otherwise smooth and finely punctured, scutellum large and weakly elevated across the base, elytra with strongly punctured striae which fade in the apical third. Antennae dark with three or four basal segments variably pale. Legs extensively dark with a yellow patch on the anterior edge of the front femora and variably pale tibiae; the front tibiae generally pale and the hind tibiae generally dark. In well-marked specimens the sexes are obvious; the in the male the two yellow streaks on the head are separate while in the female they are united, and the anterior pronotal margin is yellow in the male while in the female it is black but specimens occur with this margin yellow only towards the sides. Females may be distinguished by the depressed fifth sternite.