Rhynchites auratus (Scopoli, 1763)

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POLYPHAGA Emery, 1886

CURCULIONOIDEA Latreille, 1802

ATTELABIDAE Billberg, 1820

RHYNCHITINAE Gistel, 1848

RHYNCHITINI Gistel, 1848

RHYNCHITES Schneider, D.H., 1791

This weevil is now considered as extinct in the UK and was probably only ever temporarily established; there are historical records from Kent, as mentioned by Fowler, and it was recorded from North Essex but there are no modern records and the last verified occurrence was in 1839 from Crayford, Kent. Here it was recorded from blackthorn (Prunus spinosa L.) and occasionally other species of Prunus. The continental distribution extends through Europe and Asia, except for the north, and into China, and through much of this range it is locally common or even abundant; wild hosts include blackthorn and bird cherry (Prunus padus L.) and large populations can build up which may then become serious pests of commercially grown fruit. Adults are active from early spring; they emerge from the soil and immediately fly to nearby host trees where they begin feeding on young leaves and blossom, and at this stage entire flowers or developing leaves may be consumed, after a period of maturation feeding they mate and females begin chewing large holes into developing fruit; small cherries may be completely destroyed while apricots and plums may be disfigured beyond any commercial usefulness. Oviposition occurs during late May and early June when females chew small cavities into the fruit and place a single egg a few mm below the surface, when more than one egg is laid into a fruit the resulting larvae may become cannibalistic, and larvae emerge after two weeks and feed on the fruit from within. Larval development takes between three to eight weeks and when fully-grown they bore out of the young fruit; often the fruit will have fallen and so the larva enters the soil directly, but if the fruit remains on the tree the larva will drop to the ground and enter the soil. Pupation occurs in a small chamber five to eight centimetres below the surface and this stage generally lasts for two months. Adults eclose from late summer but usually remain within the pupal cell until the following spring, occasionally they will emerge from the soil in the autumn to feed briefly before returning to the soil to overwinter.

A large and spectacular rhynchitid; 5.5-9.0mm, body entirely metallic bright green with a coppery, red or purple lustre, legs black and generally metallic, antennae black. Head and pronotum strongly and closely, sometimes confluently, punctured; entire dorsal surface with sparse long and dark pubescence. Head quadrate, with weakly convex eyes and long, straight temples which broaden towards the base, rostrum long and expanded towards the apex, more strongly so in the female, the dorsal surface entirely green metallic, as the vertex. Antennae inserted before the middle of the rostrum in the female, in front of the middle in the male. Antennal club elongate, rather loose and only weakly thickened. Pronotum transverse in the male, quadrate in the female; broadest behind the middle and often, especially in the female, with a median longitudinal impression. Male with a strong and sharp spine towards each lateral margin which is plainly visible from above. Elytra much broader across the shoulders than the base of the pronotum, parallel-sided or weakly narrowed towards the apex in the male or slightly dilated behind the middle in the female, and continuously rounded apically. Entire basal area randomly punctures and strongly cross-strigose, without a trace of a scutellary striole, remainder of elytra with impressed and punctured but ill-defined striae.

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