Phyllopertha horticola (Linnaeus, 1758)

Garden Chafer

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POLYPHAGA Emery, 1886

SCARABAEOIDEA Latreille, 1802

SCARABAEIDAE Latreille, 1802

RUTELINAE MacLeay, 1819

ANOMALINI Streubel, 1839

PHYLLOPERTHA Stephens, 1830

Although generally common throughout its range this species has a rather restricted central and northern European distribution; it becomes very sporadic in the west of France and is absent west of the Pyrenees, it is locally common in Poland but becomes sporadic further east and is generally scarce in Russia, the northern distribution includes much of southern Scandinavia and the UK where it is locally common throughout Britain from lowlands to about 300m and is generally more common in western areas. Typical habitats include parkland, wooded pasture and grassland generally, especially calcareous grassland in upland meadows where they occasionally swarm in large numbers. Adults occur from mid-May until July and are diurnal; they are active in warm weather when they may be seen on a variety of flowers or beaten from tree and shrub foliage, they are usually very active and fly readily, a good way to record them is searching flowers or foliage along mixed broadleaf hedges bordering grassland. They mate nocturnally, usually on the ground, from mid-to late-May after a period of maturation feeding on tree and shrub foliage and oviposition begins during late May; females lay up to 30 eggs in the soil, generally between 5 and 20cm deep, local to their area of emergence and usually near to trees or shrubs, they then feed for a further period before dispersing, generally to within 4 Km and laying another, though smaller, batch of eggs. Larvae hatch within 3 weeks and immediately begin feeding upon fine roots, they remain deep in the soil and develop rapidly; the first instar stage lasts about 3 weeks and the second instar about 4 weeks, final instars appear from August and these make their way up through the soil as they feed and for a few weeks in September and October they feed directly on roots under turf, at this time predation from birds, which may damage turn in order to find them, and moles etc. may be high but they soon begin to move down into the soil to overwinter. Larvae are generally fully grown before they overwinter but may feed for a further period during March when they move up through the soil prior to pupation which usually occurs in a cell between 20 and 20 cm below the surface. Adults eclose after 3 or 4 weeks and remain in the soil for a few days as they harden and colour, their emergence from the soil is often synchronized and large numbers may suddenly appear on nearby flowers and foliage; they often occur on Crataegus and Viburnum flowers and may be seen flying among blossom on warm days. The species was formerly much more common throughout its range and has in the past been an occasional pest of turf and young tree and shrub seedlings.

This striking and very distinctive species might be mistaken in the field for Hoplia but here the hind tarsus has only a single claw.

7-12mm. A broadly elongate species with near-parallel elytra, dark forebody and appendages, which are usually to some extent metallic, and pale brown elytra. Dorsal surface finely punctured and with sparse but distinct pale pubescence. Antennae black or with the basal segment brown; the club consists of 3 lamellate plates in both sexes. Pronotum bordered throughout, with protruding anterior angles, perpendicular posterior angles and strongly sinuate basal margin, the surface smoothly convex. Scutellum large and triangular; coloured and punctured as the pronotum. Elytra pale to dark chestnut-brown and usually darker along the suture and laterally; with prominent shoulders and widely explanate lateral margins. Elytral striae strongly punctured and distinct although the punctures tend to become confused towards the base. Legs robust and extensively pubescent,  pro-tibiae with 2 large external teeth towards the apex. Meso- and meta-tibiae toothed externally and with a very strong apical spur. Terminal tarsomere curved and longer than the others, claws strongly incurved, the pro- and meso-tarsal claws unequal; the outer claw much longer and split longitudinally from the apex. Posterior tarsi with 2 almost equal claws, the outer a little longer but not split. Females are broader than males; the elytra are less elongate and distinctly broader than the pronotum across the base.

Similar species

  • Generally smaller (8-9mm).

  • Hind tarsus with only one claw.

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