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Meet Mama

March 30, 2020

By far one of the most interesting insects in the Australian bush is the psyllid. A psyllid, also known as a Jumping Plant Louse, is a hemipteran, a sap sucking insect. This blog is littered with tales about psyllids but they have been exclusively about the nymphs. It’s time to meet the parents.

Adult psyllids (pictured above left) look like small cicadas and are about 3 mm long. They are winged but are poor fliers relying on the wind to transport them from plant to plant. After mating the female psyllid lays orange to brown coloured eggs on stalks, usually on the underside of leaves (pictured below). Most psyllid species are host specific, feeding on a small number of related plants. Plants such as eucalypts each have their own group of psyllid species. A psyllid may lay up to six generations of eggs in a year depending on the species.

When the eggs hatch the emergent nymphs construct a protective structure made of honeydew and wax under which they live. This structure known as a lerp protects the nymph from predators and dehydration. Pictured left is a Lace lerp  (Cardiaspina sp.) with the psyllid nymph underneath. Lerps can take many forms – conical pyramid, fairy floss, clam shell, etc. depending on the species of psyllid. The lerp in turn is a food source for birds such as pardalotes and bell miners and is an indigenous source of sugar. The nymph progresses through five stages before emerging as an adult.

The nymph feeding causes local discoloration of the leaf where the sap has been sucked (pictured right). Though not fatal to the leaf or the plant an explosion in a psyllid population can cause widespread ‘browning’ of trees and stunting of growth. In natural environments psyllid populations are kept in control by predators and the availability of food.

Nice parents, destructive kids.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Geoffrey Leslie permalink
    March 30, 2020 9:39 pm

    That’s very informative! It fills in the gaps, actually catching the adult laying the eggs. Brilliant!

  2. Susan permalink
    March 31, 2020 1:03 pm

    Wow – I have never seen an adult before – fascinating:)

  3. Zanni permalink
    April 27, 2020 10:08 pm

    Amazing shot of such a small one – so cool to see what an adult looks like. And the eggs – they are pretty cool too!

  4. Zanni permalink
    April 27, 2020 10:10 pm

    Amazing to actually see the adult form, and the close up detail of the lerp casings… so beautiful!

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