European bug finds a festive British home

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A small, sap-sucking bug from Europe has been found living on mistletoe in Britain for the first time, the National Trust disclosed yesterday.

The black insect, previously known only in Germany and France, was discovered living on the festive plant in the Trust's gardens at Barrington Court and Tintinhull, Somerset. The bug is one of three new insects found as part of the Trust's on-going Wildlife in Gardens survey.

Known as Hypseloecus visci, the mistletoe bug measures less than a quarter of an inch (3-4mm) long and sucks sap from the leaves and stems of the plant. The find raises the number of British insects dependent on mistletoe to six: one moth, one weevil and four bugs.

There are 1,500 species of mistletoe worldwide and most grow in the tropics.

In addition to the mistletoe bug, the Trust also found a small, harmless paper wasp - Polistes dominulus - at Ham House in Richmond, London and a small fly called Homonera indistincta, which breeds in decaying vegetation, at Montacute House in Somerset.

Matthew Oates, the Trust's nature conservation adviser overseeing the study, said: "Most of the gardens surveyed turned up as many rare insects as the average small nature reserve. This is clear evidence that a wealth of weird, wonderful and new wildlife lurks undiscovered in our gardens."