Yesterday I went out to my lawn looking for a photographic subject on which to finish running down my flash batteries so I could take them out and recharge them. The most conspicuous insects there were tiny, hopping black ones that I think I’d spent most of my life thinking were baby crickets–until the summer before last, when I took to scooping tiny things from the lawn to feed these spiderlings, and I got a closer look at them. In the greatly enlarged photos below, it’s obvious that they’re true bugs (Heteroptera) rather than crickets, but at life size (2 mm long) all you see from any distance are little dark jumping things, and I’ll bet I’m not the only person to make this mistake. So I thought I’d take a moment to reveal their true identity here.
They are known as “garden fleahoppers,” or Microtechnites bractatus (until last year the name was Halticus bractatus). They belong to the “plant bug” family (Miridae), and like most of their relatives they suck on plant juices for food. Based on the information on BugGuide, it looks like rounded individuals like the one above are females, whereas males are slender like the one below.
The nymphs are pale green and therefore much less conspicuous than adults. The only shot I have of one is this one with a huge (relatively speaking) mite attached to its side.