Random Insect: Sharpshooter leafhopper

Sharpshooter leafhopper (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae: Graphocephala) photographed 07/10/2011 near Blissfield Michigan.

Perhaps my favorite local leafhoppers here in Michigan are members of this particular genus of sharpshooter (HemipteraCicadellidaeGraphocephala sp.).  Many leafhoppers are marked with striking colors (Triplehorn and Johnson 2005), but these little guys are the ones I come across most often.  Although beautiful, many leafhoppers are serious plant pests.  They use their sucking mouthparts to drain sap, and they vector many plant diseases (Triplehorn and Johnson 2005).

Like the related and much larger cicadas (Hemiptera:  Cicadidae), leafhoppers can produce sound.  Unlike their larger relatives, however, leafhopper chirps are weak.  Most can only be heard through amplification, or in some cases by holding the insect to your ear (Triplehorn and Johnson 2005).  The sounds produced by most leafhoppers are probably used for species recognition (Triplehorn and Johnson 2005).  That seems necessary since there are a ton of these things bouncing all over the place.

I find it interesting that so many of these insects are brightly colored.  It seems that this would make them obvious to predators.  I suspect this could be a form of Batesian mimicry, but I don’t know what poisonous insect they would be copying.  It also seems unnecessary for them to adopt this form of anti-predation since they’re so good at escape.  As the name “leafhopper” suggests, these little guys spring out of harm’s way in the blink of an eye.  Maybe they just like taunting predators with a “Here I am!  *blink*  Now I’m gone!”  In other words, the coloration may have nothing to do with their fitness.

Literature cited:

Triplehorn, C.A. and N.F. Johnson.  2005.  Borror and DeLong’s Introduction to the Study of Insects.  Seventh Edition.  Thomson Brooks/Cole, Belmont, CA.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Entomology, Random Insect and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Random Insect: Sharpshooter leafhopper

  1. Scott says:

    Great info. I didn’t know about the sound. Thanks!

    Like

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