Epitrix Foudras, 1860

Suborder:

Family:

Subfamily:

Species:

POLYPHAGA Emery, 1886

CHRYSOMELIDAE Latreille, 1802

ALTICINAE Newman, 1834

E. atropae Foudras, 1860

E. pubescens (Koch, J.D.W., 1803)

Epitrix atropae Foudras, 1860

Belladonna Flea Beetle

This is a mostly southern and western Palaearctic species, it occurs from Spain to the Balkan Peninsula and the Black sea and is present in north-west Africa, to the north it extends to the UK and Poland, it is absent from the other Baltic countries and only doubtfully present in Denmark and Sweden. In the UK it is generally very local across south-east and central England and known from a few sites in the north-east but is seemingly absent from Wales and Scotland. In the French Pyrenees it occurs up to 1300 m but it is a lowland species in the UK; it occurs in a wide range of habitats including open woodland and parkland, coastal dunes and meadows and disturbed sites including domestic gardens, it is also frequent in chalk and limestone areas and despite being very local is often very abundant where it occurs. Host plants include various Solonaceae, especially Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna L.) but also Wolfberry (Lycium barbarum L.) and Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger L.) Adults are present throughout the year, they overwinter among tussocks or litter under hedgerows or in marginal situations and become active from April, they peak in abundance during the spring and again in late summer when the new generation emerges. Mating occurs in the spring after a period of feeding when they produce numerous small holes in host foliage, and females lay small batches of eggs into the soil at the base of host plants. Oviposition occurs in May and June but may be extended into the summer, larvae emerge from June and feed on host roots in the soil, they develop quickly and are fully developed after about three weeks, they pupate in a subterranean cell and new-generation adults appear from late June. There is a single generation each year. This species will need to be looked for carefully, we found a huge colony on Henbane in a chalk pit in the Chiltern Hills in South Buckinghamshire during June 2013, the host plant had been extensively skeletonised, presumably by adult feeding, but many other plants nearby were untouched.

Epitrix atropae 1

Epitrix atropae 1

Epitrix pubescens 1

Epitrix pubescens 1

Epitrix atropae 2

Epitrix atropae 2

Epitrix pubescens 2

Epitrix pubescens 2

1.2-1.9 mm. Elongate-oval and convex, body shiny black, elytra black with large orange or red maculae behind the shoulders and before the apex, legs pale brown with the posterior femora dark and the middle and front femora variably darkened, antennae extensively pale but darker towards the apex. Head and pronotal margins – at least along the base – and elytral interstices with pale pubescence. Head transverse with large convex eyes and deep and sharp oblique furrows from the posterior margin of the eyes, frontal tubercles small and narrow. Antennae filiform with all segments elongate, the small third segment barely so. Pronotum transverse, broadest in front of obtuse posterior angles and narrowed to a rounded (from above) apical margin, calli below the anterior lateral margin short and broadest posteriorly. Surface evenly and quite strongly punctured, without microsculpture, transverse basal impression usually well-defined between short longitudinal impressions from the base. Elytra dilated and broadest behind the middle, with finely rounded, sometimes distinctly angled, shoulders and a continuous apical margin, striae strongly punctured and continued almost to the apex; the sutural stria extending well beyond the middle, interstices slightly convex, very finely punctured and without microsculpture. Hind femora much broader than the front and middle femora, hind tibia with a single spur at the inner apical angle, front and middle tibiae without obvious spurs. Tarsi pseudotetramerous.

Epitrix pubescens (Koch, J.W.D., 1803)

Bittersweet Flea Beetle

A local but very widespread Palaearctic species occurring throughout Europe north to the UK and southern provinces of Fennoscandia, to the south it occurs on most of the Mediterranean islands, the Azores and is present in Israel, Iran and through Asia Minor, it is common across western Russia and extends through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to Siberia and further into the eastern Palaearctic region, it has also become established in the United States and appears to be spreading, the earliest record being from 1975. In the UK it seems to have become more frequent over recent decades, it is now locally common across England north to Yorkshire but very local and mostly coastal in the West Country and Wales including Anglesey. Adults are present throughout the year; they overwinter among tussocks and leaf-litter etc. and are active over a long season from March or April until September or October, peaking in abundance during the spring and again from August when the new generation appears. They occur in a wide range of habitats; often wetland margins and damp woodland and grassland but commonly on light chalky or sandy soils and coastal dunes and shingle, they are quick to colonise disturbed sites such as gardens and allotments and may occur in flight-interception traps almost anywhere. Host plants include various Solonaceae, usually Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamarae L.) but also Black Nightshade (S. nigrum L.), Red Nightshade (S. villosum Miller), Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna L.), Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger L.) and various cultivated plants such as Tomato and Tobaccos. The common name applies to various members of the genus which are known to feed on potato, adults of the present species will consume potato foliage and they have been occasional minor pests in warmer regions such as Southern Europe and Turkey, but it is not known whether potato is a larval host. Mating occurs early in the season after a period of feeding, and oviposition continues through May and June. The oviposition site is not known but larvae develop in roots, pupation occurs in a subterranean cell from July and there is a single generation each year. Sampling is easiest by sweeping bittersweet; adults usually occur in large numbers and may sometimes be seen swarming on the foliage, they often occur in flight-interception traps and sometimes remote from host plants.

1.2-2.0 mm. Long-oval and discontinuous in outline, body rather shiny black or very dark brown, legs pale brown with the hind femora dark and the middle and front femora and tarsi variously darkened, antennae dark with at least four basal segments pale brown. Head with large, weakly convex eyes, narrow frontal tubercles and deep frontal grooves. Antennae 11-segmented and filiform, all segments elongate. Pronotum transverse, broadest near the base and narrowed to long calli outside the rounded (from above) anterior angles, posterior angles perpendicular and basal margin produced about the middle, surface evenly and rather strongly punctured throughout and with very fine microsculpture. Sub-basal transverse furrow distinct between short longitudinal impressions, surface substantially glabrous but for scattered pubescence along the basal margin and sometimes laterally. Elytra with a distinct swelling inside the sloping shoulders, lateral margins smoothly curved to a continuous apical margin, striae strongly punctured almost to the apex except for the sutural striae which ends, or becomes weaker, just beyond the middle, interstices finely punctured and pubescent. Hind femora enlarged, hind tibiae with a single spur at the inner apical angle, the other tibiae without obvious spurs. All tarsi pseudotetramerous. Claws smooth and distinctly toothed at the base.

Epitrix atropae
  • Pronotum without microsculpture

  • Pronotal callus shorter

  • Elytra typically with large pale red marks behind the shoulder and before the apex

  • Sutural stria extending far beyond the middle

Epitrix pubescens
  • Pronotum distinctly microsculptured

  • Pronotal callus longer

  • Elytra entirely dark

  • Sutural stria shorter, extending to, or just beyond, the middle

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Epitrix atropae 2