Rockrose prickly leaf beetle © Royal Horticultural Society Wisley

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Insect Week: Scientists record the first Rockrose Prickly Leaf Beetle in the UK

The discovery of the rockrose prickly leaf beetle (Dicladispa testacea) is the first time the species has been recorded in Britain. It was identified from adult beetles on its namesake plant - the rockrose (Cistus) - in a garden in Surrey.

The discovery of the rockrose prickly leaf beetle (Dicladispa testacea) is the first time the species has been recorded in Britain. It was identified from adult beetles on its namesake plant - the rockrose (Cistus) - in a garden in Surrey. The beetle measures just 5mm in length, and its orange-brown body is covered in black spines, giving it a striking appearance when viewed closely. 

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Gardening Advice service received photos from a gardener keen to know what the mystery beetles might be. The photos and adult beetles taken from the garden were used by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to confirm the RHS identification, marking the first time the beetle has ever been recorded in Britain. The RHS consulted the Natural History Museum’s collections to compare historical records of the rockrose prickly leaf beetle in Europe. The rockrose prickly leaf beetle is one of many species that have been changing their range due to anthropogenic climate change and change in habitat.

The rockrose prickly leaf beetle is found throughout much of Europe, and the scientists behind the recent identification believe that it is likely to spread and become established in areas where rockrose, itself introduced from the Mediterranean, is common. There is no record of economic, environmental, or societal damage caused by the beetle in its natural range, therefore no action was recommended by the government agency.

Max Barclay, Senior Curator of Coleoptera at the Natural History Museum London and co-author of the paper, said: ‘Because of climate change and global trade, there are increasing opportunities for new species to arrive and establish in the UK.’

At the Natural History Museum, we have been monitoring the arrival and spread of non-native species into the UK. Although this species is not a threat to native species, monitoring the changes can help us to predict the effects of climate and habitat change on natural ecosystems.’ 

Dr Andrew Salisbury, Principal Entomologist for the RHS and co-author of the paper, said: ‘We were very intrigued to receive the reports of the rockrose prickly leaf beetle as it was not a species anyone had expected to appear in this country. The prickly appearance of this beetle is very distinctive, and we were excited to identify it as the first record for Britain. 

This species does not pose a threat to gardens and native plants and can be considered to be an addition to the biodiversity found on our back door step and the allure of our gardens. Equally, it serves as a reminder of the importance of checks and controls when importing plants to increase biosecurity and safeguard plant health, as not all new arrivals will be as innocuous.’

The discovery emphasises the importance of species monitoring to help better understand patterns in species populations and to protect native wildlife. The Natural History Museum runs regular community science projects working with the public to record wildlife observations across the UK.  

Find out about how you can take part in the Museum’s latest project, ‘Fly Finder’ and more ways to record species here.



Notes for editors

Natural History Media contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 5654/ (0)779 969 0151 Email:

Images available to download here. 

About the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most-visited indoor attraction in the UK last year. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world.

It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens accessed by researchers from all over the world both in person and via over 30 billion digital data downloads to date. The Museum’s 350 scientists are finding solutions to the planetary emergency from biodiversity loss through to the sustainable extraction of natural resources.

The Museum uses its global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet - to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome millions of visitors through our doors each year, our website has had 17 million visits in the last year and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 20 million people in the last 10 years.

About the RHS

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) was founded in 1804 and is the UK’s largest gardening charity. 

The RHS vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place via its inspirational gardens and shows, science research and advisory, extensive library collections and far-reaching education and community programmes. With over 600,000 members the RHS also shares its horticultural knowledge and expertise with millions of people every year through its website and publications.

In 2021, the RHS launched its Sustainability Strategy, committing to be net positive for nature and people by 2030. The supporting RHS Planet-Friendly Gardening Campaign will continue to harness the power of the UK’s 30 million gardeners to help tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis. 

We are solely funded by our members, visitors and supporters.

For more information visit

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262