Little sideways-walking leafhopper or bark louse nymph

2014 October 25

We found this on the steps of the deer blind/playhouse out back on September 8, 2013. It was unusual in that it mostly scuttled sideways instead of walking forwards. It was also under 3 mm long and wouldn’t hold still very well, and so was hard to photograph.

It had a very deep body and a very rounded back, so there were depth-of-field problems at this magnification that made it hard to get it all in focus at once. Here’s the head end in better focus:

And here’s the abdomen end:

At first, I thought it was a nymph of one of the bark lice in the order Psocodea. But then, noticing that those generally had pronounced necks, and my specimen is pretty much neckless, I thought maybe it was one of the plantlice[1], which are in a completely different order. But then, looking at it more closely, particularly the antennae, its face actually looks a great deal like a cicada’s face, only a lot smaller. And the nymphs of leafhoppers in the family Cicadellidae do look pretty similar in a lot of ways. So, I’ll tenatively go with those (although I’m still not completely ruling out the “bark louse” possibility).

In any case, given that it is pretty mobile it is likely to go from plant to plant sucking juices, so there is some possibility that it could be a disease vector. Other than that, I expect that it is of no particular economic significance. It’s just an amusing little thing to watch scurrying around.

[1] The general convention is that if you, say, have something that actually is in the “louse” order, then the common names of more specific types use two words: “Bark louse”, “Rat louse”, “Deer louse”, etc. Things that are commonly referred to as “lice” but aren’t in the actual louse order, on the other hand, run the words together: “Plantlouse” (relatives of aphids); “Woodlouse” and “Waterlouse” (crustaceans), and so on. This applies to common names of other things, too: “Dragonflies”, “Butterflies”, “Caddisflies”, etc. are not actually in the “Fly” (Diptera) order, and so the name runs together into one word; “House Flies”, “Deer Flies”, “Crane Flies” and the like are in that order, so the name is two words. I try to follow this convention as much as I can, but sometimes I mess up.

One Response
  1. October 26, 2014

    If you look at the head photo, it looks like a topographic map of a mountain range watershed. Similar in look, similar in creation? Is it a kind of watershed of bodily fluids as the creature grows?

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