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Not more about lerps!

November 18, 2017

Psyllids are tiny winged insects that look like small cicadas. In fact both psyllids and cicadas are Hemipterans meaning that they are characterised by sucking mouthparts. Adult and nymph psyllids suck the sap of plants. The psyllid nymph extrudes a mix of wax and sugar-rich honeydew from which it constructs a shelter under which it hides from predators and parasites. This ‘house’ is called a lerp. Lerps provide a food source for a variety of birds such as pardalotes and bell miners and are also an indigenous food source.

Different species of psyllids build lerps of different structures and composition. The Sugar Psyllid (Glycaspis sp.) builds a conical sugar-rich lerp.  The Lace or Basket Psyllids (Cardiaspina sp.) builds a scallop-shaped lerp. A current infestation of them is causing the large-scale browning of eucalypt leaves in the district.

While on a bird survey with the Murrindindi Birdwatchers last weekend we found a grove of Red Box supporting a large population of White Clam Psyllids (Hyalinaspis sp.). If you look carefully in the photo above you can just make out the nymph underneath the lerp.   The White Clam Lerp presents as a white, flat structure and although there were many of them the trees and their leaves did not seem to be affected.

Peeling back the lerp revealed the psyllid nymph underneath (pictured right). It didn’t harm the nymph but there is a spot of house reconstruction needed!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rosemary Simon permalink
    November 18, 2017 9:43 am

    Thank you so much for this information. I had no idea how lurps arrived to make my precious trees look as though they are going through early death throes. I will enjoy even more the sound of the pardalotes scraping at the leaves.

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