Friday, August 2, 2013

An Odd Visitor!

Just south of our house in Illinois is a jungle of bushes and shrubs.  I hadn't looked around in it this trip, so took a break from yesterday's blog post and brought along the macro lens, just in case anything interesting came along.  Boy, did it! 

I've never noticed these fellows before, but one species of bush had about a dozen or more on it.  They looked amazing - like a headless beetle!  They are about 5-8mm long, lacked antennae or a head, and walked, if not looked, like a crab in a shell.  Of course, a Google search with similar keywords turned up nothing, so I sent the picture at left to  "Bug Man" Carl Olson, an entomology expert at the University of Arizona.  In a former life, we played volleyball together (he was on a different team) in City League play.  The last couple decades, we was well-known locally in all-things-insect, from being interviewed on TV to various press releases from the University of Arizona.  While he retired from teaching at the beginning of the year, he continues to curate the insect collection of the UA, with nearly 2 million specimens, as well as answer the 4,000 requests for identification that they get a year!

By the time we got back from our evening activities last night I had an answer - they do in fact, have heads - you can see their little brown eyes just in front of their legs.  These are Enchenopa binotata, the two-spotted treehopper.  They have evolved to take on the appearance of thorns or leaf stems to avoid predators.  I also had an inkling that they were hoppers of some sort - after e-mailing Carl the picture, I touched one and it jumped a good foot and a half!

Of course, now that I've seen them, they stand out like a sore thumb and wonder how I've missed them in the past.  They are rather smallish and my 100mm Canon macro didn't do an outstanding job yesterday, as the wind was frustrating my efforts.  Today I did slightly better, getting the shot at left, but still, for a quarter-inch across bug, it is about the best I can do...  And of course, the search continues for the unusual...

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