Friday, November 29, 2013

Green-Blue Leaf Hopper


Description

     Leafhopper is a common name applied to any species from the family Cicadellidae. These minute insects, colloquially known as hoppers, are plant feeders that suck plant sap from grass, shrubs, or trees. Their hind legs are modified for jumping, and are covered with hairs that facilitate the spreading of a secretion over their bodies that acts as a water repellent and carrier of pheromones.They undergo an incomplete metamorphosis, and have various host associations, varying from very generalized to very specific. Some species have a cosmopolitan distribution, or occur throughout the temperate and tropical regions. Some are pests or vectors of plant viruses and phytoplasmas.  The family is distributed all over the world, and constitutes the second-largest hemipteran family, with at least 20,000 described species.They belong to a lineage traditionally treated as infraorder Cicadomorpha in the suborder Auchenorrhyncha, but as the latter taxon is probably not monophyletic, many modern authors prefer to abolish the Auchenorrhyncha and elevate the cicadomorphs to a suborder Clypeorrhyncha. Members of the tribe Proconiini of the subfamily Cicadellinae are commonly known as sharpshooters.


     The Cicadellidae combine the following features:
  • The thickened part of the antennae is very short and ends with a bristle (arista).
  • Two ocelli (simple eyes) are present on the top or front of the head.
  • The tarsi are made of three segments.
  • The femora are at front with, at most, weak spines.
  • The hind tibiae have one or more distinct keels, with a row of movable spines on each, sometimes on enlarged bases.
  • The base of the middle legs is close together where they originate under the thorax.
  • The front wings not particularly thickened.
An additional and unique character of leafhoppers is the production of brochosomes, which are thought to protect the animals, and particularly their egg clutches, from predation and pathogens.


Behavior, feeding and habitat

     Like other Exopterygota, the leafhoppers undergo direct development from nymph to adult without a pupal stage. While many leafhoppers are drab little insects as is typical for the Membracoidea, the adults and nymphs of some species are quite colorful. Some – in particularStegelytrinae – have largely translucent wings and resemble flies at a casual glance.Leafhoppers have piercing-sucking mouthparts, enabling them to feed on plant sap. A leafhoppers' diet commonly consists of sap from a wide and diverse range of plants, but some are more host-specific. Leafhoppers mainly are herbivores, but some are known to eat smaller insects, such as aphids, on occasion. A few species are known to be mud-puddling, but as it seems, females rarely engage in such behavior. Leafhoppers can transmit plant pathogens, such as virusesphytoplasmas and bacteria. Cicadellidae species that are significant agricultural pests include the beet leafhopper (Circulifer tenellus), potato leafhopper (Empoasca fabae), two-spotted leafhopper (Sophonia rufofascia), glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca vitripennis), the common brown leafhopper (Orosius orientalis), the maize streak virus vector Cicadulina mbila, and the white apple leafhopper (Typhlocyba pomaria). The beet leafhopper (Circulifer tenellus) can transmit the beet curly top virus to various members of the nightshade family, including tobacco, tomato, or eggplant, and is a serious vector of the disease in chili pepper in the Southwestern United States.



     In some cases, the plant pathogens distributed by leafhoppers are also pathogens of the insects themselves, and can replicate within the leafhoppers' salivary glands. Leafhoppers are also susceptible to various insect pathogens, including Dicistroviridae viruses, bacteria and fungi; numerous parasitoids attack the eggs and the adults provide food for smallinsectivores.


    Leafhoppers are very tiny, as you can see them commonly on some leaves, as tiny as a grain of rice. I have used a Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II Lens with a 12mm extension tube for taking the 2nd image. For all other images, I have used 36mm extension tube with the lens on Canon EOS 7D SLR camera body. Amazing creatures these are, who teach us enormous breath control techniques to get a glimpse of their tiny and beautiful colored body. I controlled breath in between these captures for a duration of 20 seconds each. Tough job, but an amazing learning experience controlling my breath, which helps me control my mind very well. I did use a pop-up flash of my Canon EOS 7D, with a custom made tissue paper flash diffuser to soften the light coming out of the flash.

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