Readers’ wildlife photos

First, a short note: my duck Honey, according to interim reports and my own personal inspection, is no longer at the pond. I hope she’s flown to more congenial climes, and I really hope to see her next year. I will be able to recognize her now because I have close-up photos of the unique pattern of dark stippling on her beak.

Here are this summer’s crop of hopper insects! I enjoy tracking them down as fascinating macro photography subjects when the birding is slow.

All hopper images were photographed at Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, Wisconsin.

When I kvetched that the photos were as digiscoped images on Mike’s webpage, which would be a pain to extract, he kvetched right back at me:

Kneeling and crouching into the dense jungle of summer foliage, carefully steering the aim of my macro lens through leaves, stems, and branches, sweat dripping from my brow and mosquitoes sucking blood from my neck the whole while. Oh gawd, was that poison ivy?

Well, it was worth it to get these splendid pictures. The identifications are Mike’s. First, though, here’s a quiz for you, since by now you should be able to name about ten orders of insects:

What order of insects includes the planthoppers and leafhoppers? (Answer at bottom of this post.)

Locust Treehopper – Thelia bimaculata

Buffalo Treehopper – Ceresa taurina

Two-striped Planthopper – Acanalonia bivittata

Red-banded Leafhopper – Graphocephala coccinea 

Planthopper – Acanalonia conica

Northern Flatid Planthopper – Flatormenis proxima

Sharpshooter Leafhopper – Draeculacephala zeae

Citrus flatid Planthopper – Metcalfa pruinosa

Answer to the quiz: leafhoppers and planthoppers belong to the order Hemiptera, or “true bugs.” No insect out of this order should, to us biologists, be called a “bug.”


  1. busterggi
    Posted September 17, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Hoppers are gorgeous to me, even the basic ones, just something about their eyes.

    • Aldoleopold
      Posted September 17, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      The eyes also struck me. Nice jpegs!

  2. Posted September 17, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Nice diversity!

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 17, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    These are great photos! I love the little hoppers and I appreciate how hard it is to photograph them. Macro nature photography is especially demanding.

  4. Glenda
    Posted September 17, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    PCC(E)rest and get back on your feet. I’m relieved that Honey has headed south – at least I hope she has. I am almost ready to bet money she will find you again in the spring.

    The photos of the hoppers are just excellent.

    • Liz
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:22 am | Permalink

      I hope Honey comes back in the Spring, too.

      • Liz
        Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:25 am | Permalink


  5. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted September 17, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    No insect out of this order should, to us biologists, be called a “bug.”

    Why not? The question of what the word “bug” refers to is a matter of linguistics, not biology. And in fact the use of “bug” to refer to insects predates Linnaean taxonomy by at least a couple of centuries.

    The earliest use of “true bug” I find in Google Books is in 1869 (a century after Linnaeus), in an article differentiating the “true” Colorado Potato bug from the “bogus” Colorado Potato bug. Within a few years we see usages of “true bug” referring to other members of the Hemiptera, but I can find no explanation of why its usage should be restricted to that order.

    Note that even among biologists today, there’s disagreement as to whether “true bugs” include all of the Hemiptera, or just the Heteroptera.

    I’m beginning to think this “true bug” silliness is a kind of scientific urban legend or pseudo-fact akin to spurious prohibitions of split infinitives and sentence-final prepositions. It’s just something somebody misunderstood or made up sometime in the 1870s, and has hung on ever since by sheer force of repetition, despite mountains of evidence that people use “bug” to refer to all manner of arthropods.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 17, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Don’t use “bug” like that because it bugs Jerry.

    • jimroberts
      Posted September 17, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Linguistically, it is quite clear that a word can have an everyday meaning but also a specific technical meaning not necessarily very close to its common meaning. Think of force, power, work: these have very exact meanings in physics. If PCC(E) were to contract some minor respiratory infection, I would not be surprised if he told us that he had caught a bug. That is why he said, “to us biologists”, that is, speaking as biologists of biology.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted September 17, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        But the specific technical meaning of “true bugs” is Hemiptera, or possibly Heteroptera, both of which are already perfectly cromulent technical words. So “true bugs” adds nothing to the technical vocabulary, and serves only as a shibboleth to signal in-group membership.

        • Posted September 17, 2017 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

          Thank you for your hurtful comment that I’m signaling membership of an in-group. Perhaps you might consider that I was just trying to impart some knowledge of biology.

          Or perhaps you might consider how you’d feel if you wrote what I did and then someone chimes in arguing that I’m flaunting some kind of elitist knowledge.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted September 17, 2017 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

            You’re right; I worded that more harshly than I should have. I certainly meant no insult to you personally, only a general critique of the tendency of all scientists to use technical language to obfuscate rather than clarify. But I’m still at a loss to understand what knowledge of biology “true bugs” imparts that “Hemiptera” doesn’t.

        • Posted September 18, 2017 at 3:42 am | Permalink

          Cromulent use of “cromulent”

  6. Mark R.
    Posted September 17, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Exquisite little buggies. I thought hemptera…forgot the ‘i’…sorry Alex Trebek.

  7. Posted September 17, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Love them ‘hoppers. Those white Flatids are especially tricksy since they are very reflective in the flash. You did very well there.

    They used to be in the order Homoptera, and the Hemiptera were the ‘true bugs’ with half leathery and half membraneous fore-wings. The Homoptera had uniformly leathery or membraneous forewings. It was all pretty straight-forward. But nooooooo, someone had to do a genetic analysis and discover that the Homoptera were descended from within the Hemiptera. Now you got all these ‘Hemipterans’ with uniform forewings. I know that this is correct and progress and all that, but its still … irksome.

    • Marlene Zuk
      Posted September 17, 2017 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Indeed! I still haven’t unlearned my insect orders properly.

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 17, 2017 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      “I know that this is correct and progress and all that, but its still … irksome.”


  8. Diane G.
    Posted September 17, 2017 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Wow, super pics, Mike!

    Wonder why the red-banded is so aposematic?

    • Posted September 18, 2017 at 2:15 am | Permalink

      Trawled all the way down through the comments to see if this was asked/answered! If they’re not poisonous or a bit bitey/stingy then maybe the colours aren’t that bright to predators?

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 18, 2017 at 2:37 am | Permalink

        Possibly. And they are quite tiny…

        Surprisingly (to me) I got a lot of hits by searching for “sexual selection in insects.” But IIANM, there’s no dimorphism in these bugs. Plus, do these bugs have eyes that can even see colors?

        Aha. One mention:

        What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

        Leafhoppers dodge predators with their quick movements. Some emit a distress call that may startle a predator and cause it to drop the leafhopper. The bright colors on some suggest they might be toxic, but we don’t have any information on this.

        Back to our original thought. So much research that may never be done. 😦

  9. Ron DeBry
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    If you’re going to insist on refraining from calling anything outside Hemiptera a “bug”, then you should also refrain from calling anything outside Tephritidae a “fruit fly”. (the common name for Tephritidae being “true fruit flies”)

  10. Cruzrad
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:27 pm | Permalink


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