Rhododendron Leafhopper Graphocephala fennahi. Photo: K. WilliamsLlanelli Naturalists Newsletter - September 2007 - No 73
Ian Morgan

It was over 20 years ago when I first encountered the Rhododendron Leafhopper Graphocephala fennahi whilst I was on a Nature Conservancy Council course in Oxfordshire. This beautiful little leafhopper was abundant that warm September day on planted rhododendrons and I resolved to search for it in Stradey Woods, Llanelli when I returned, but I could not find any.

Two decades later, on 14th September 2006, I caught a glimpse of little insects early one morning on the rhododendrons on the edge of Gelli Aur`s noted arboretum.  Carefully, I approached one and realised instantly that I had Graphocephala!  There were scores on the bushes and, as the day warmed up, they became very jumpy, flying to an adjacent part of the rhododendron in a characteristic manner that is difficult to describe.  As they are quite small (< 1cm), when they fly en masse it is like an April breeze blowing away the bud scales of an emergent shoot – they seem to somewhat `float` away.

On the way home that day, I resolved to check Stradey Woods once more, but this time I searched the sunny margins of the rhododendron thickets, just outside the Castle (years ago I had looked in the shady interior of the woods).  It was the distinctive flight of these leafhoppers that once again caught my eye, and they were frequent on the sun-warmed bushes.

Later at Gelli Aur, I also came across singletons away from rhododendrons; they were presumably autumn-dispersing individuals.  This North American introduction is already known from Glamorgan, but these records constitute a first record for Carmarthenshire.

Details of records:  

Gelli Aur               SN 598198     12th September 2006

Stradey Woods    SN 492016     12th September 2006.

I am grateful to Keith Williams, Ranger at Gelli Aur for the photograph.