The Tortoise Beetles of Nottinghamshire
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Within invertebrate Orders,there are always particular families which are made immediately recognisable through showing a combination of one or more features running through the majority of species contained within it.

Beetles (the Order Coleoptera for those new to insects) come in a range of imaginative shapes, sizes and colours, which render many to be distinctive enough to be assigned to a Family on sight. Beetles of the Family Cassida, probably represent one of the more distinctive Families.

They are instantly recognisable by their quite unique shape and in some ways, look less 'beetle like' than most. Cassida earn their common name of Tortoise Beetles purely by their appearance and likeness to the shell of a Tortoise.

If you come across one during a woodland walk, then identification is not too difficult for those living in Nottinghamshire, as they're is not a deal of species choice, so identification should not really be too much of a problem, especially if a note on what plant your specimen was on.
 
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  Historical records of Cassida beetles in Nottinghamshire

Historically, J.W. Carr listed just three species in his book 'The Invertebrate Fauna of Nottinghamshire: Nottingham. J.& H. Bell Ltd (1916)'. Today's modern Nottinghamshire naturalists are so fortunate to have Carr's original volume and his later follow up Supplement to use for historical research. His book provides an often eye-opening view of times past and to see just how fortunes for different species have changed in a century.

Carr listed records of Cassida flaveola, Cassida rubiginosa (given as C. viridis in Carr) and Cassida vittata, but for some reason did not include a record of Cassida nobilis, even though the record was credited to one of Carr's regular contributor of records.

Many species don't have a great UK range and most are more southerly than Nottinghamshire in their distribution and there are several species of Cassida, which would be considered highly unlikely records. Those species falling into this category are Cassida murraea, Cassida nobilis and Cassida vittata.
 
Cassida larvae are just as distinctly shaped as the adults and the larvae of Cassida rubiginosa and Cassida viridis (above left) are easy to find by examining the correct hostplant in the correct habitat. The larvae of most species carry their moulted skins and faeces above their backs as protection, even though to us, it makes them more conspicuous.

Nottinghamshire species list and accounts

The following species have all been recorded from Nottinghamshire.

Cassida murraea Linnaeus, 1767
Cassida flaveola
Thunberg, 1794
Cassida nobilis
Linnaeus, 1758
Cassida prasina Illiger, 1798
Cassida rubiginosa Müller, O.F., 1776
Cassida vibex Linnaeus, 1767
Cassida viridis Linnaeus, 1758
Cassida vittata de Villers, 1789   
 
Cassida murraea (Fleabane Tortoise Beetle) Linnaeus, 1767      
Historical records:- We have a report of one from Teversal Pastures, possibly dated as 1998 (Barton, T.). This is perhaps the most unlikely species out of all the Cassida to have been reported, or recorded in Nottinghamshire. It is a beetle of southern Wales and south-western counties of the UK, but there is a record from as far north as Merseyside but this is rather isolated.

Host Plants:- Pulicaria dysenterica (Fleabane) and Inula conyzae (Ploughman's Spikenard)
     
Cassida flaveola  (Pale Tortoise Beetle) Thunberg, 1794
Historical records and known modern distribution:- Has always been scarce in Nottinghamshire and remains so. J.W. Carr gives details of two records including Treswell Wood on 29/05/1899 (Thornley, A. Rev) and Park Drain, Misson on 22/09/1914. The only recent records appear to be from Sherwood Heath SSSI in 2003 and again in 2006 (Godfrey, A.) plus single records from Meden Vale in 2011 (Pendleton, T.A. and Pendleton, D.T.) and Stapleford in 2013 (Lane, S.).

Host Plants:- Stellaria graminea (Lesser Stitchwort) and Stellaria holostea (Greater Stitchwort)
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Cassida nobilis Linnaeus, 1758      
Historical records and known distribution:- Only known from a single historical record from South Leverton on 10/08/1900 (Thornley, A. Rev), but for some reason, the record was never listed by Carr in his 1916 book 'The Invertebrate Fauna of Nottinghamshire'.

Host Plants:- Chenopodium album.
     
Cassida prasina Illiger, 1798      
Historical records and known distribution:- A single record from Attenborough NR in 2007 (van Leeuwen, I.) remains the county's only record. Likely to occur here again, as it has a patchy distribution over most of the southern-half of the UK and Wales, but especially in south-eastern counties.
 
Host Plants:- Achillea millefolium.
     
Cassida rubiginosa (Thistle Tortoise Beetle) Müller, O.F., 1776      
Historical records and known distribution:- Carr lists a number of records in his account of this species. 'Sherwood Forest near Ollerton, June 1914 (L.A. Carr). Retford district, not uncommon on Cnicus arvensis (now Cirsium arvense); South Leverton; Treswell Wood; Cottam; Littleborough; Kingston-upon-Soar (Thornley, A. Rev) and Radcliffe-on-Trent 01/05/1913. He also lists further records from Crow Hill Wood, West Leake 01/06/1915 (Robinson) and Epperstone Park on 06/09/1913 (Thornley, A Rev and Carr).

This is by far the most common species to occur in Nottinghamshire. It occurs throughout the county and is the species most likely to be found. The reddish markings at the base of the elytra can sometimes be absent on fresh specimens, making them superficially look similar to Cassida viridis.

Host Plants:-  Cirsium arvense (Creeping Thistle) and Centaurea spp (Knapweeds)
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Cassida vibex Linnaeus, 1767      
Historical records and known distribution:- Not listed as occurring historically in Nottinghamshire by Carr. The available records would suggest that Cassida vibex is a fairly recent arrival in the county and on the basis of a number of recent records, is largely confined to the southern parts of the Trent Valley. One at Sneinton railway line in 1991 (Jenkins, P.) seems to be the first Nottinghamshire record, but was not followed until a second individual was recorded at Attenborough NR in 2007 (van Leeuwen, I.), then others at Shelford on 09/05/2012 (Dutton, A.) and Berry Hill Park in Mansfield on 29/05/2012 (Pendleton, T.A. and Pendleton, D.T.) . There have been a number of other records from Gedling CP, Netherfield Lagoons and Wilford.

Host Plants:- Cirsium spp (Thistles) and Centaurea spp (Knapweeds)
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Cassida viridis (Green Tortoise Beetle) Linnaeus, 1758      
Historical records and known distribution:- Not widespread and is probably most likely to be found along the more southerly reaches of the Trent Valley. There may well be an element of under-recording, but it can be easily found at Colwick CP by searching Gypsywort Lycopus europaeus growing at the edge of the Trout lake.

Host Plants:- Mentha aquatica (Water Mint) Lycopus europaeus (Gypsywort) and Stachys palustris (Marsh Woundwort)
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Cassida vittata de Villers, 1789     
Historical records and known distribution:- One extremely vague historical record, which Carr lists only as 'Cumber Park' (Pegler, S.) and gives no other information. Unlikely (but not impossible) to be found again in Nottinghamshire, as even with a largely coastal, southerly UK distribution, it does occur as far north as the north Norfolk coast.

Host Plants:- Chenopodium spp (Goosefoots) Pulicaria dysenterica (Fleabane) and Atriplex prostrata, a coastal plant which has spread inland over the past thirty or so years.
     
 
Distribution maps for all species with modern records
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Cassida murraea Linnaeus, 1767   Cassida flaveola Thunberg, 1794
 
     
Cassida prasina Illiger, 1798   Cassida rubiginosa Müller, O.F., 1776
 
     
Cassida vibex Linnaeus, 1767   Cassida viridis Linnaeus, 1758
 
     
     
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