These mating treehoppers (Acutalis brunnea) picked a good place to get together, at least from a photographer’s perspective. I like the composition of this full frame image, but there’s so many different ways I could crop it.
Here’s a closer look at the pair.
I’ve stared at the full size image, but I can’t decide which one is male and which one is female.
Here’s yet a different species of colorful treehopper. These too were found in association with ants.
I had planned to post just a single photo of this scene with ants tending treehoppers. Here we see at least two different colorful treehopper instars, with one actively molting. Ants like the one shown above tended to this small grouping of treehoppers. As I was choosing a photo to post, I noticed something strange about the treehoppers though. Do you see it too?
Look closely and you’ll see that a few nymphs have parasites. I wasn’t sure at first, so I started looking through my other photos. Sure enough, almost every one had one or more parasites. The parasites seem to prefer hiding under the wing pads and below the thorax.
Most of the parasites were small, but there were at least a few plump ones.
None of the photos provided a clear view of the parasites, but I suspect they are mites. In any case, apparently the services provided by the ants don’t include grooming.
When I spotted a group of treehoppers like the one above, I settled in for a while. With such a beautiful subject, I was determined to get some good photos. The shot above is probably my favorite out of around 300 or so shots. I struggled to get something in the background to avoid the usual black background that usually happens with macro flash photos. A black background wasn’t going to serve very well for these mostly black treehoppers.
Not only are the adults pretty, but the nymphs are also attractive in their own way. I prefer the black background here.
The treehoppers cluster together in small groups.
Somewhat surprisingly, these treehoppers didn’t appear to be attended by any ants.
I thought this exuvium was interesting. The interior is orangish, like the spikes on the abdomen. I suppose the base color is really mostly orange with black spots. The white color must really just be white scales.
They were on a good sized tree.
While looking around for an identification, I encountered a similar looking species on this plate from the Biologia Centrali-Americana identified as Membracis foliata. This article indicates there’s been confusion around that species though, so it could very well be one of the other species mentioned there (unfortunately I can’t access the full text).
When I encountered the planthopper above, I had no idea what was going on. While not entirely sure, I assumed that might be a parasite on its abdomen. I had wanted to get a closeup of just the parasite, but when I went to grab the planthopper, it jumped and flew away with little difficulty. The parasite must not have been as much of a hindrance as it would appear.
Here’s a crop of the image above showing the parasite.
It didn’t take much searching on the internet to determine that this must be the larva of a wasp in the family Dryinidae. There are plenty of images of larvae on BugGuide. According to Wikipedia, a larva initially feeds internally on the host. Only later in its development does it protrude the host as shown here.
I feel lucky to have seen this. As is usually the case, this just whets my appetite for more. Now I’ll be on the lookout for the odd looking adult.
This thread-legged bug appears to be hanging in mid-air, but in fact it has delicately balanced itself on a spider web. Its beak holds a small spider that it must have just plucked from the center of the web.
Some thread-legged specialize in spiders, and I wonder if this might be one of them. Some are even known to lure the spider by plucking at the web like captured prey might.
These dictyopharid planthoppers are a nice addition to my virtual collection.
It took many attempts before I got this shot where both planthoppers were in the plane of focus. That’s sometimes difficult enough with small subjects, but even more so when they are above your head. I convinced myself the Canon 60D’s flip-out view screen with live view would come in handy for situations like this. Shots like these that I’d otherwise have missed make me feel better about the expenditure.
This shield bug caught caught my eye mostly based on its relatively large size. What made the pursuit worthwhile though was accidentally catching it as it took flight. I enjoy getting to see some parts of the anatomy that are generally hidden.
I probably wouldn’t have noticed these scale insects were it not for the ants that would occasionally stop to feed from them.
Its difficult to see in the first photo, but each one has 20 or so waxy threads spiraling away from the body. It’s not clear to me where exactly they’re coming from. The threads are a bit easier to see in the next few photos.
I wonder if the spirals don’t help the ants to locate the scale.
The scales excrete honeydew from a small orange tube (to the left above, right below).
Here’s what might be an immature form of these scale insects. The tube where honeydew is excreted is easier to spot here.
And finally, here’s an ant soliciting honeydew from that same small scale.
I’ll separately post more photos of the ants.