Looking for the Leafhopper Ledra aurita in Nottinghamshire
 
Occasionally, certain invertebrates stand out from the rest.

With moths, its often the larger than life Hawk-moths, among bees and wasps its the Hornet and with beetles, its probably the combination of size and colouration of the Musk Beetle.

With Leafhoppers however, its not a size or even a colour thing, but just by being something so completely different to anything else, that makes Ledra aurita stand out above all other Leafhoppers.

Ledra aurita is not colourful. It is very large compared to the other UK species, but there is something about it, which grabs the attention of the naturalist, who then makes a determined effort to track it down. Not such an easy task though, but hopefully this page will point people wishing to see it, in the right direction. No gaurantees though.

 
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Biology and status of Ledra aurita in the UK

Ledra aurita is found locally in wooded areas across southern parts of the UK and is the only member of the Ledrinae to be found here. Although its superb camouflage may have led to an element of under recording over the years, there seems little doubt that it is indeed a rare insect. Even at relatively well recorded sites such as Sherwood Forest, Ledra went unrecorded for the best part of a century.

Measurng between 13-18mm in length, it is considerably larger than any other UK Leafhopper and is known to have the ability to stridulate quite loudly. Adults are generally found between May and September, but can certainly occur until the first real Autumn or Winter frosts.

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  Fresh adults are actually grey in colour, although with age, they often become green through accumulating algae growth from the trunks and branches of mature trees.

Past and present Nottinghamshire status

Historically, Ledra aurita always seems to have been a much prized find in Nottinghamshire, and many of the countys most notable naturalists never even encountered it.

Described as 'rare' by J.W. Carr in his book "The Invertebrate Fauna of Nottinghamshire" published in 1916, Carr lists just three records - from Treswell Wood (Thornley), Sherwood Forest near Edwinstowe in 1912 and from Thorney in 1913 (L.A. Carr).

One found at Attenborough NR on 26/05/07 (Richard Rogers), represents the first of four recent Nottinghamshire records, in almost a century. But the Attenborough record remains isolated, with the other three records all coming from the Sherwood Forest area.

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All of our records occurred really quite by chance. Our first caused great excitement, when Ledra's charcteristic shape appeared on the sheet of the MV light we were running at Sherwood Forest CP on 20/08/10.

We thought (and subsequently wrote at the time) that it would be many years before we ever encountered it again, but while searching the trunks of Beeches at Holborn Hill Plantation near Meden Vale, Ledra aurita was found again on 20/10/12.

That late date was surpassed when, while again searching the trunks of trees for newly emerged female Winter Moths, our third Ledra record was found, slowly crawling down the trunk of an Oak near Hazel Gap on a very mild 27/11/13.

Below :- Nottinghamshire distribution map of Ledra aurita, showing the most recent known records. The square in the lower left of the county represents Attenborough Nature Reserve.

 
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Looking for Ledra aurita in Nottinghamshire

A bit of research always helps when planning a trip to specifically search for any species. Knowledge of where and when to look can cut your search time down enormously, but there will always have to be an element of luck and a large amount of patience.

Most of the species we have purposefully looked for, have always been tracked down eventually, though it can take several years and we are still looking for some species.

Our starting points would be Holborn Hill and the adjacent Hangar Hill Plantations, where anything sitting on the smooth Beech trunks is usually quite obvious and Ledra is certanly much easier to see more than most.

Holborn Hill Plantation (below) is located between the villages of Meden Vale and Budby, at SK600698. Hanger Hill Plantation is nearby at SK602686.

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Our October and November records may indicate that once the leaves start to fall, adults descend from the tops of trees, so this may be the best time to locate this county rarity.
 
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