Lawnhoppers

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.

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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.

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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.

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About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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6 Responses to Lawnhoppers

  1. Cindy says:

    I never know quite what to say after reading your posts – they are so unusual. But I really enjoy them! Love your insect track and sign book too!

  2. Lisa Rainsong says:

    Thank you for this post – it is quite interesting. I’m glad I know now to watch for these, since I really do look for ground crickets and could come across these tiny plant bugs. I feel sorry for that little nymph with the “big” mite, though…

  3. Hi Charley, I just saw this article that might interest you: http://guardianlv.com/2013/09/nature-invented-inter-meshing-gears-on-legs-of-insects/
    From what I read, planthoppers and garden fleahoppers are in the same order, but I don’t know if the latter share the same movement mechanism detailed in the article. Perhaps you already know all about it.

    • Neat! I hadn’t seen that. Although planthoppers and garden fleahoppers belong to the same order (Hemiptera), they belong to different suborders. Planthoppers are in the suborder Auchenorrhyncha, which is mostly composed of hopping insects, whereas garden fleahoppers are in suborder Heteroptera, which has very few hoppers. So if garden fleahoppers have these same structures, they arrived at them independently.

      • Glad the article interested you. By the way, have you considered creating a post index? It would make it a lot easier for people to find topics of interest. Although I don’t yet have many posts on my own blog, I just added an index in anticipation of a long and successful blogging career (lol!). I think it’s useful: http://ouroneacrefarm.com/post-index/

        • Thanks for the suggestion. My titles are often a little cryptic, so I’m not sure an index would be as useful in my case. I do always add a bunch of tags to each post, so if you see a tag that piques your interest (gall, for example) you can see a list of all the posts with that tag.

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