Mistletoe Bugs

By Harry Green & John Meiklejohn.

A short communication caught my eye (HG) - The specialist Hemiptera associated with mistletoe, Hollier & Briggs 1999. JWM had never seen them and there were apparently no records in the Worcs BRC. There is a lot of mistletoe on apple trees in my garden in Little Comberton, so in early spring 2000 I held a net under a large clump and gave it a good shaking. The result was a net full of psyllids! I repeated the search in late summer - more psyllids, some small bugs (all about 3 mm long) and a small long horn beetle about 6 mm long.

From the spring catch David Green identified the mistletoe-specific psyllid Psylla visci. From the late summer catch he and JWM identified more of the same (and other psyllids, probably off the apple tree), and JWM named Orthops viscicola, a specialist mistletoe-sucking capsid plant bug, and Anthocoris visci a specialist carnivore which attacks Psylla visci. So the whole bug-ecology of mistletoe was present in my garden, and it seems to be only the second set of records for Worcestershire. The first set was reported from Kemerton in the afore-mentioned communication from Hollier & Briggs 1999.

Interestingly, Price 1987 made a special search for mistletoe in Warwickshire, where it is much less common than in Worcestershire, (he found 541 mistletoe plants on a total of 152 host trees!) and at the same time he looked for the specialist bugs. He found Orthops viscicola and Psylla visci but not Anthocoris visci. He mentions that the latter occurred in Hereford & Worcester but we do not know of that Worcester record.

Recorder 3.3 tells us that Anthocoris visci is classified as a notable B species, confined to mistletoe, limited in distribution by its host plant, and probably under-recorded because of its inaccessibility. Orthops visci, the plant sucking bug, is a southern species restricted to mistletoe, and not often recorded, though is probably no more restricted in distribution than its host plant. Psylla visci is a jumping plant louse patterned red, brown and white, which feeds on mistletoe, and is confined to southern England. (see also Dolling 1991).

David Green confirmed HG’s identification of the longhorn beetle as Pogonocherus hispidus, which is widespread but local in distribution. The larvae feed under the bark of dead twigs of many broad-leaved tree species, commonly holly, apple, pear and ivy: the long list given by Bense 1995 includes Viscum (Mistletoe), but the beetle we caught may not have emerged from mistletoe as many of the other species occur nearby, including ivy, apple, pear, and holly.

We shall be looking for two more mistletoe specialists in 2001. Price 1987 found three blister mines in Warwickshire mistletoe leaves, caused by the larvae of a tortrix moth Celypha woodiana, which is apparently restricted to old apple orchards in west England, where it feeds on mistletoe. It is classified as RDB 2 (vulnerable) and we don’t know if it occurs in Worcestershire.

To name the second specialist we want to find it is easiest to quote a press release as it appeared in the Worcester Evening News 3rd October 2000:

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