Leafhopper Weirdness

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I spent most of today near the summit of Mt. Lemmon, a 9200 foot mountain adjacent to Tucson, and came back with images of several species.  I’ll begin showing them tomorrow.  Meanwhile, tonight’s image is something a little on the weird side.

Leafhoppers are common insects that come in numerous species.  They are small and as their name implies, they are capable of prodigious leaps.  They are herbivores, subsisting by consuming plant juices.

A couple of weeks ago I photographed this individual in our back yard.

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From a few feet away this leafhopper appears to be a nondescript little green insect, about 1/4 inch long.  Get up close to it, however, and its appearance is positively weird.  It has bulging compound eyes that are, for some reason, purplish blue in color.  Just above each compound eye is a simple eye. I have no idea what purpose it serves.  The weirdest feature of this insect, however, is its proboscis, the long, jointed white tube that descends from the front of the leafhopper’s head.  It serves both as a drill and a straw.  If you look closely at this image, you’ll see that the leafhopper has cut an incision at the base of one of the plant’s stems.  Sap is leaking from the wound and the leafhopper is sucking that up through its proboscis.  Very strange.

We tend to overlook just how bizarre and wonderful insects are.  After 300 million years or so of existence they have evolved into forms that are fantastic almost beyond human conception.  This lowly leafhopper is just one of many.

Image made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180mm f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, stabilized by monopod, M setting, ISO 160, f8 @ 1/160.