Threatened diversity: The new Red List of cicadas in Bavaria has been published – Bavaria

Around three millimeters small, slim, light-colored head and wings with dark spots and a black-yellow scutellum: This is the marjoram leafhopper, one of 568 species of leafhoppers currently known in Bavaria. Eupteryx origani, its scientific name, has always been rather rare. However, according to biologist and cicada specialist Herbert Nickel, it used to be found in many locations, including in the lowlands. The marjoram leafhopper is now almost only found in poor alpine meadows grazed by cattle. The main reason is that poor sites have been lost in the flat regions for years.

In the new Red List of cicadas in Bavaria, which Nickel edited for the State Office for the Environment (LfU), the species is listed as critically endangered. Incidentally, Eupteryx origani gets its name from the fact that, like many cicadas, it specializes in one food plant, wild marjoram.

Cicadas are plant-sucking insects; they populate all sorts of habitats from the lowlands to the low mountain ranges to the Bavarian Alps. They only do not occur on intensively managed agricultural land – regardless of whether it is fields or grassland. Like the marjoram leafhopper, leafhoppers are generally very small and can usually not be seen. What is known, however, is their so-called cuckoo saliva or witch spit. This is the popular name for the foam that some cicada species cover their food plants with to protect their larvae. Cicadas often appear in very large numbers. According to Nickel, densities of 5,000 animals per square meter of grassland are not uncommon. Knowledge about the small insects has increased significantly over the last 30 years. This is the main reason why many more species are documented in the new Red List than in its predecessors.

According to Nickel, around 650 species of cicadas are known across Germany. With 568 documented species, Bavaria is by far the federal state with the most species-rich cicada fauna. But that’s not all. The number of known cicada species in the Free State has increased by 111 species, or almost a quarter, since 1996. The main areas of distribution are the dry landscapes in northern Bavaria, the Franconian Jura, the foothills of the Alps and the Bavarian mountains. 36 species are only documented in this country. Examples are the cinquefoil leafhopper in Mainfranken or the gravel bank spurhopper, which lives on the few remaining wild river sections in the Bavarian Alps and the foothills of the Alps. Researcher Nickel assumes that more native species will be documented in the coming years. He expects a total of around 700 cicada species across Germany.

Anyone who thinks that things are going well for the cicadas is mistaken. Like the marjoram leafhopper, 211 species are listed as threatened on the Red List. That’s 38 percent of the entire spectrum. 16 species are considered extinct or missing. Another 83 species or 15 percent are on the so-called early warning list on the threshold of the red list.

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