The Rhododendron Leafhopper in Nottinghamshire
 
Originally of American origin, the attractively marked and coloured Rhododendron Leafhopper (Graphocephala fennahi) has been in the UK since the early 1900's. Its distribution has traditionally been across the southern-half of the UK, but it is now found at sites well north of The Midlands, to Leeds in Yorkshire.
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The true distribution of the Rhododendron Leafhopper (and most other UK Cicadellidae), undoubtedly suffers from a lack of recording by many naturalists, despite many species being commonly found in urban gardens.

A good number can be safely identified from good quality photographs, but many of the smaller species will require more detailed examination from a specimen.

The Rhododendron Leafhopper is certainly one of the easiest of all to identify and this should be no problem in the field. As its common name suggests, it is found exclusively on Rhododendron and is one of very few insects to use this as a foodplant.

It is a large, attractively marked species, with bright red streaks on a green background and measuring between 8mm and 10mm in length.

 
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Preferred habitat and brief notes on life-cycle

Most known Nottinghamshire sites for Rhododendron Leafhopper, are characterised by well established, landscaped parks and gardens with large stands of Rhododendron. To date, we are not aware of any records from private gardens within any of Nottinghamshire's large towns, but gardens containing several established Rhododendron, will always be worth checking. It occurs on varieties (hybrids and species) of Rhododendron and does not appear to be restricted to the non-native Rhododendron ponticum, introduced into the UK in the 1700's and now widespread in some Nottinghamshire woodlands.

Eggs are laid on the leaf buds and both the developing nymphs and adults feed on the sap. Adults (often several found together) are conspicuous on the present years growth. The red markings are not an immediately obvious feature to the unaided eye.

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Nottinghamshire records and distribution

Nottinghamshire's first record of Rhododendron Leafhopper, was from Wollaton Park on 10/09/89 (Fox, D.G. and Fox, H.L.) which was followed 11 years later by numerous records from Clumber Park (Binding, A. and Binding, A.E.) dating between 2000 and 2006. The most recent records from Clumber Park are from 2013 (Fearn, I. and Baxter, N.).

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It is also known from the grounds of Newstead Abbey, where it was first recorded on 08/09/12 (Tobin, S.), which came just over a week before we found it within minutes of starting to look for it at Carr Bank Park in Mansfield on 18/10/12. Our most recent Rhododendron Leafhopper record, came from the grounds of Woodthorpe Grange, Nottingham on 06/09/14.

It is certainly fairly widespread in Nottinghamshire by now, but its distribution is obviously restricted to the presence of Rhododendron.

 
 
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