Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leafhopper knocking on my front door.

This strange little insect turned up on my front screen door, several days ago. I have not ever seen one of these insects before - well, not with a set of fully fledged flying wings - especially not with these steely-blue translucent wings. I was able to "recognise" the shape of the head of this insect, for as a former gardener in Canberra I had to deal with many Leaf Hoppers - mostly flightless nymphs of the Passion-fruit Leaf Hopper.From the head shape and the "bug" eyes, it reminded me of a Cicada and Leaf Hoppers. Both are members of the Hemiptera Order - "Bugs".

I did a search on my favourite Insects site, the Chew Family's "Insects of Brisbane". I quickly found a page with similar insects, the "Yellow and Black Leafhopper". This confirmed my original impression that I was on the right track - Leafhoppers - Subfamily Cicadellinae, Family Cicadellidae. Obviously the group is named after the Cicadas.

That site gave me a link to a further site, from the NSW Dept of Primary Industries. They have a key for distinguishing related families - Leaf Hopper or Spittle Bug?

This is part of the Website: Key to the Leafhoppers and Treehoppers of Australia and neighbouring areas - by Murray J. Fletcher, Orange Agricultural Institute.

The closest I could find to my insect is this species Ishidaella tumida, another orange-bodied Leaf Hopper, quite similar to mine.
The following notes on Leaf Hoppers and Cicadas are adapted from the Chew Family website pages on the "Order Hemiptera - Bugs, Aphids and Cicadas."

"The insects in Order Hemiptera are extremely diverse in size, shape and colour. They include the Bugs, Aphids, Cicadas, leafhoppers and scale insects."

If you find the combination of Cicadas with Aphids and Scale insects to be a bit puzzling, remember that they have one common characteristic: their sucking mouths (stylets). Because of the position of this insect higher than my head, and as I was unsure what I was dealing with, I was reluctant to handle it, so unfortunately I do not have an image which shows the sucking mouth parts.

All of the insect in this Sub-Order suck juice from plants, insects or other animals. (I'd rather not think of blood sucking bugs - but there is a group of related insect (in the group known as True Bugs) which are called "Assassin Bugs". I wrote about one of these previously. Many of them are small, but one is up to 30 mm long. Fortunately for us, dear reader, they concentrate on insects, termites and spiders, though reportedly they can give
a painful prick on prying fingers.

Members in the
Order Hemiptera undergo "incomplete metamorphosis" and their young, the nymphs, look much the same as their adults except smaller and wingless. In this regard they have a totally different life-cycle from Butterflies and their caterpillars. Remember my comment above on how the shape of the head of this insect was familiar to me as a former gardener in Canberra? One could never say that of a caterpillar's head resembling a butterfly's head.

This Suborder Auchenorrhyncha - includes cicadas, treehoppers and leafhoppers. Hoppers have hard forewings which held roof-like over the membranous hind wings on the back.


Snail said...

Bugs are so confusing. (To me, anyway.) I never know quite where to start with them.

On the subject of blood-sucking in bugs ...

While in S America, Charles Darwin wrote in his diary: 'At night I experienced an attack (for it deserves no less a name) of the Benchuca (Vinchuca), a species of Reduvius, the great black bug of the Pampas. It is most disgusting to feel soft wingless insects, about an inch long, crawling over one's body. Before sucking they are quite thin but afterwards they become round and bloated with blood.'


Tyto Tony said...

Nice of the insect to call on you.

Chew family obvious example of nominative determination

Tyto Tony said...

Oops: determinism

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments re insect identification. Your persistence in ID is admirable Denis.....if I can't find a matching photo in a reference I usually opt out and contact a friendly entomologist!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Barbara
If I could consult a friendly entomologist every time I found something interesting, I would do so.
As it is, Duncan sent me an answer, from a friend of his, in answer to a query from ages ago.
So, the Internet community works too.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Bronwen and Tony.
Thanks for that horror story, Bronwen. We ought be glad that Darwin survived the attack, eh?
Tony, just as well they are not the "suck" family! Insects are pretty amazingly determined. Have you ever seen those speeded up videos of groups of caterpillars eating leaves?
Makes you wonder any plants survive - which of course, is why so many of them have poisons in them, which we use for medicines, etc.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Bronwen
I have just read up about the "Benchuca (Vinchuca), a species of Reduvius, the great black bug of the Pampas."
I did not realise they were "Assassin Bugs" (forgive my ignorance of Scientific names of Insect families).
Fortunately, the only one I have ever seen is tiny and is a Spider-sucking specialist.
They are pretty scary in design. Big ones would give you the horrors.
I also did not realise that the illness troubled Darwin for many years afterwards.
Wikipedia has quite a lot of information - but it acknowledges that much is speculation, as Darwin sought medical assistance over many years, but they could not diagnose or treat him successfully.
Thanks for the story.

Denis Wilson said...

Here is the link to a photo of the Assassin Bug which is the known insect vector of "Chagas Disease", which is believed to have troubled Charles Darwin after the attack Bronwen has described.