Southern oak bush-cricket

by Richard Jones

The southern oak bush-cricket is flightless, [...] so it could not possibly have flown from Southern France and Northern Italy into Surrey and Berkshire.

The southern oak bush-cricket, Meconema meridionaleWith a one-night stop-over in Beaune, we made the return trip from Tuscany in 20 hours of driving. It seemed a long time to us, even taking into account various breaks to stretch legs, eat, and drink coffee. But, of course, it is just a mere hop.

We are not the only ones on the road, but even 100 kilometres from Calais, it seems that we are the only nationality on large stretches of the French motorway system. With the leisurely ease of Le Shuttle, and endless ferries plying the Channel, it is no surprise that there are so many UK travellers roaring over the continent. And it is no surprise to discover ‘new’ European mainland insects arriving back with them into Britain.

The rosemary leaf beetle, Chrysolina americana, was first found in the UK in a Kitchen in Disley, Cheshire in the early 1960s, and was thought to have come back with some large pine cones picked up in the Portugal countryside and brought home as souvenirs. This was a false start, but it got a proper foothold in 1995, and is now everywhere.

The southern oak bush-cricket, Meconema meridionale, is flightless, lacking the long elegant wings of its cousin the oak bush-cricket, M. thalassinum, so it could not possibly have flown from Southern France and Northern Italy into Surrey and Berkshire in 1991. Much more likely it fell off the back of a lorry, or a family hatchback, or a saloon. It is now widespread in southern England.

And there was one waiting for me in the front garden when I returned from Italy. I thought I found one a couple of years ago, but that was a nymph, and would have lacked wings no matter which species it was. Now is the time for the 15- to 20mm adults, so I can be certain of my identification this time round. It has the same lovely pale, slightly turquoise, green colour, but no wings. Definitely the southern.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t bring it back with me, but I can’t be absolutely certain.

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Gardeners' World Web User 31/08/2011 at 11:07

Oh, Richard, now you have me searching my rosemary bushes and, presumably my oak trees, looking for beetles and crickets. The garden gets more and more exciting the more possibilities there are.

Gardeners' World Web User 31/08/2011 at 14:26

Guess what! Because of all this incessant RAIN the ground beetles are out. I managed to have a good look at one of them and placed it in a safe place. Found out they like slugs and snails, so placed it where I thought the snails and slugs appear from. I still have my nest of flying insects, can see the entrance clearly, they fly like little aeroplanes.

Gardeners' World Web User 31/08/2011 at 14:34

Richard, Forgot to say three weeks ago saw my first cricket in ages, three crossing the foot path, they were brown in colour, they were not hopping, so think they were crickets?

Gardeners' World Web User 31/08/2011 at 18:44

Gosh, you're reminding me of a time I bought home a packet of baby figs from the Alpujarras in Spain that caused our kitchen cupboard to be infested for 2 years with tiny moth-like insects. No matter how we cleaned or threw food out, they came back like Cliff Richard at Christmas. All gone now, however, and I never did find out what they were.

Gardeners' World Web User 31/08/2011 at 22:28

Great piece Richard, This year my wild-flower meadow/lawn has been rich with all sorts of bugs including grasshoppers and crickets. Although attempting to watch and photograph them I wasn't aware of the "southern oak bush cricket" and being in Somerset I presume there is a good chance of seeing one of these?....I shall be on the look out for one now!! Regards Higgy

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