bug juice the show


Cardiaspina Psyllid-scapes

Macro-photography reveals Many Little Things in our world that would be difficult to see otherwise. White spots on gum tree (Eucalyptus) leaves, that most people would never notice, become alive and amazing when magnified. Here we have the ‘lerps’ (see here to find out what these are) of tiny little psyllids. Psyllids belong to the insect order Hemiptera along with a wide range of insects that principally suck plant juices. Bugs suck, beetles bite.

These pictures show several stages of the species lifecycle.

The eggs, hatched and unhatched, are shown amongst lerps and excuviae (cast or sloughed ‘skin’ of an animal (like a snake), especially of an insect larva) in the second picture; the reddish eggs have hatched whereas the yellow ones haven’t. Hatching from the eggs are the tiny little first instar ‘crawlers’, shown in the bottom image. If you look closely you can already see it beginning to exude a pre-lerp from its rear.

As the nymph (immature) grows through a total of five instars before adulthood, the lerps it lives under are increased in size until they reach the fifth instar stage (top). The lerp of this stage is around 2.5-3 mm across (you could fit 3-4 across your little fingernail) and the nymphs not much longer than 1 mm. Remarkably, the lerps are woven by the nymphs using constituents of the plant juices that are excess to their nutritional needs. Kind of like making baskets from your crap - sort of.

Eventually after 10 days to over 6 weeks, depending on the species, the fifth instar will leave its lerp and moult on the surface on the leaf near its childhood home. The adult, which looks like a tiny little cicada is shown in the fourth image. They will mate, lay eggs on the host and start everything all over again.

Cue music. The cirrrrrcccclllllle offfffffff liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiffffffffe…