Looking for the Leafhopper Ledra aurita in Nottinghamshire
 
Occasionally, certain invertebrates stand out from the rest as being quite unique within our local fauna. 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. It may be different if only we had Stag Beetle in Nottinghamshire.

With Leafhoppers however, its not really 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 isn't colourful, but it is very large compared to the other UK species. Most of all, it definitely has that something about it which grabs the attention of the young (and not so young) naturalist.

 
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Biology and status of Ledra aurita in the UK

At some point, there will no doubt come a time when they make 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 guarantees though.

Ledra aurita is found locally in wooded areas across southern counties and is the only member of the Genus Ledra to be found in the UK. Although its superb camouflage may have led to an element of under recording over the years, there seems little doubt (to us at least) that it is indeed a rare insect in Nottinghamshire. Even at relatively well recorded sites such as Sherwood Forest, Ledra went unrecorded for the best part of a century, but there has been an increase in the number of records in the county over recent years.

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  Measuring 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. Fresh adults are actually grey in colour, although with age, they often become green through accumulating algae growth off 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).

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One found at Attenborough NR on 26/05/07 (Rogers, R.), represented the first Nottinghamshire record for almost a century, remaining somewhat isolated until the first of our Sherwood Forest records in 2010. The full list of county records we know of, is shown in the table below.
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Fig 01. ... Recent Nottinghamshire records of Ledra aurita
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Date   Site   Recorder(s)   Notes
26/05/07   Attenborough NR   Rogers, R.    
20/08/10   Sherwood Forest CP   Pendleton, T.A. and Pendleton, D.T.   Attracted to MV light
20/10/12   Holborn Hill Plantation   Pendleton, T.A. and Pendleton, D.T.   On tree trunk (Beech)
27/11/13   Hazel Gap   Pendleton, T.A. and Pendleton, D.T.   On tree trunk (Oak)
18/10/17   Clumber Park   Biddulph, T.    
17/06/18   Rufford (Vexation Lane)   Pendleton, T.A. and Pendleton, D.T.   Nymph, beaten from Beech
15/07/18   Misterton   Lee, P.   Attracted to garden MV light
18/08/18   Market Warsop   Pendleton, T.A. and Pendleton, D.T.   Attracted to garden MV light
18/08/18   Budby South Forest   Budworth, D.   Four attracted to MV light
02/09/18   Retford   Newman, M.   Attracted to garden MV light
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All of our records have 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 in August 2010. We thought (and actually wrote at the time) that it would be many years before we ever encountered it again. But while searching the trunks of Beech trees at Holborn Hill Plantation near Meden Vale, we found another near Meden Vale, Ledra aurita on October 2012.
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  What we though at the time was a late date, was to be surpassed the following year, when while searching the trunks of trees for newly emerged female Winter Moths to photograph, we found our third Ledra slowly crawling down the trunk of an Oak near Hazel Gap on a very mild November day.

Our latest Nottinghamshire distribution map of Ledra aurita, showing the most recent known records is below. The square in the lower left of the county represents Attenborough Nature Reserve and the square in the upper right is Misterton. Sandwiched roughly half-way between, are the Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest records.

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 be an element of luck and a large amount of patience.

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

Our starting points in a deliberate daylight search for Ledra, would be Holborn Hill and the adjacent Hangar Hill Plantations. Here, anything sitting on the smooth Beech trunks is usually quite obvious and Ledra is certanly much easier to see than most. Holborn Hill Plantation (below) is located between the villages of Meden Vale and Budby, at SK600698 and Hanger Hill Plantation is nearby at SK602686.

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But if you trap moths using an MV light, you probably have an advantage over many others already. Three of the county's recent records have concerned individuals turning up at light traps, including one in our own garden in the middle of Market Warsop and one in Phil Lee's Misterton garden in 2018.
 
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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 finally get the chance to catch up with this unique species.
 
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