Wednesday, 10 February 2016

'Mud-puddling' planthoppers a first

Planthoppers, Eagle Heights.

Last week, I was contacted by Jerome Constant, an entomologist with the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, in regards to a photo I had shared on Facebook.

The photo in question, shown above, depicts a mixed-species group of planthoppers I found in November last year, congregating on a muddy track in Tamborine National Park.

Jerome, whose work focuses on planthoppers especially, was surprised by the photo, as the 'mud-puddling' behaviour it captures has never been reported before for this family of insects.

Mud-puddling, where insects gather en masse to obtain mineral salts that might otherwise be lacking in their plant diet, is best known in tropical butterflies, but has also been observed in leafhoppers, a close relation of the planthoppers I saw.

The experience of watching these colourful little creatures swarming in from the surrounding vegetation was quite an enchanting one, and a family of bushwalkers walking up the trail behind me also stopped to enjoy the spectacle.

Planthoppers, Eagle Heights.
I have identified the species involved as the green-and-black planthopper (Desudaba psittacus) and the orange-spotted planthopper (D. maculatus).

Jerome, an academic with an appreciation for 'citizen science' possibilities, has kindly made his research papers available to the public.

Anyone with interesting planthopper photographs or observations can share these with Jerome by joining the Facebook group 'Amateur Entomology Australia' and tagging him in the picture.

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