Cixius Planthopper

2024 July 7

This little planthopper (about the size of a gnat) got into our house on June 23, 2024. It had pretty well-developed wings, but it apparently didn’t like to use them. It would generally either sit still or crawl slowly, and if disturbed would jump maybe 6 inches, but didn’t fly off.

Getting it onto a white background made it a lot easier to see the patterns on the wings, and I also managed to get one shot from the side.

It was hard to get a proper face shot, because it was a bit hunchbacked.

This is probably one of the planthoppers in the family Cixiidae. In particular, the wing patterning looks like any of several of the 28 known North American species in the genus Cixius.

The nymphs of this family of planthoppers live underground and suck juices from plant roots, and so normally the adults are the only ones that we see. They are pretty common, I was out sweep-netting earlier this week [1] and it looked like I caught maybe 20 or so in a couple of sweeps of the net. They don’t appear to be particularly important crop pests, which means there is essentially zero money available for entomologists to study them. The BugGuide page includes this little note from entomologist Charles Bartlett:

The issue with New World Cixiidae is that they need to be studied more. Melanoliarus needs to be broken up, as does Haplaxius, Pintalia, Bothriocera, and so on. Somebody just needs to take the time to sort them out. Melanoliarus really isn’t a valid taxon as it is currently comprised and you don’t have to look at too many to realize it should be several genera, but exactly how many and exactly how they should be composed is another matter.

So, if even the entomologists aren’t happy with the state of classification of these insects, I certainly am not going to be the one to sort it out!

[1] I had caught another tiger beetle and thought about keeping it, and maybe catching some more to see if I could get them to lay eggs. So I was sweep netting to try to get small insects for it to eat. But, it appeared that it was unwilling to eat in captivity, so I ended up letting it go again.

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