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s2smodern

Planthopper Nymph

Field macro enthusiasts and photographers are becominga more common sight in Thailand, thankfully.

 

When I come across someone in the forest and they ask me what birds/mammals/snakes (just choose one) I have seen, they are not so bemused now when I say I am looking for insects. They may even stop and chat rather than quickly move on, away from this strange person who is looking for….. insects, urgggh!

I believe we are becoming a more common sight because of photography. More and more people are taking up the pastime and revealing more of the exotic spectacles of arthropods to the world.

Butterflies in particular, in Thailand, are attracting a very strong following, and the well-known locations for butterfly aggregations, such as Kaeng Krachan and Pang Sida, allow anyone with a camera the opportunity to take a first step. Be it a phone camera, a compact camera or a DLSR. On any given weekend in the season you can see children, families, couples, and enthusiasts all eagerly enjoying the aggregations and clicking away.

 

Like with any other interest or hobby, the more one becomes a serious hobbyist or enthusiast, the more one tends to become interested in a certain area of interest, or a particular subject. I think most field macro photography enthusiasts would admit to having a strong attraction to the planthopper world. If not partly because it’s such a diverse group with some of the most beautiful and striking family members in all the arthropod world.

A planthopper is any insect in the infraorder Fulgoromorpha (Order: Hemiptera, Suborder: Archaeorrhyncha). Their name comes from their resemblance, in their adult forms, to leaves and other plants of their environment and from the fact that they often "hop" for quick transportation. But as many forest visitors have seen planthopper immature nymphs of many species take on a much less subtle appearance.

These nymphs are most widely known and recognized for secreting a filamentous epicuticular wax from glandular tissues at the tip of their abdomen. As the nymph feeds, it extrudes this white, fluffy wax and different species extrude in different pattern forms as well as differing body coverages.

It’s believed that this extrusion provides protection from predators and is also known to prevent desiccation by storing water.  It is also believed that this strange result of evolution may also protect the nymphs from spider’s webs (they don't stick to spider’s webs) and from water as they apparantly allow the nymph to float.

It is very common in Thailand to see such nymphs, especially quite large white ones in aggregations which are nymphs of the Family Flatidae and probably of the Genera Phromnia. But less common are sightings of smaller individual nymphs of other Flatidae species, largely due to their size making them very difficult to locate. So the next time you are in the forest is a you see some tiny white “fluff” in the undergrowth it may be worthwhile investigating a little further. This little Flatidae find in Kaeng Krachan National Park was no more than 3 mm tall, including his/her bouffant, and captured using Canon’s MP-E 65 using a ratio of 3:1.

Planthopper Nymph

 

Infraorder Fulgoromorpha (AKA Archaeorrhyncha, planthoppers) : Superfamily Fulgoroidea : Acanaloniidae; Achilidae; Achilixiidae; Cixiidae; Delphacidae; Derbidae; Dictyopharidae; Eurybrachyidae; Flatidae; Fulgoridae; Gengidae; Hypochthonellidae; Issidae; Kinnaridae; Lophopidae; Meenoplidae; Nogodinidae; Ricaniidae; Tettigometridae; Tropiduchidae

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onflipflops replied the topic: #2984 14 Jul 2015 10:07
Thanks for sharing the facts about the wax secretions that create these unusual body shapes of the nymphs and help them in various ways to survive.
It's these kind of interesting and unusual facts that make exploring nature so interesting, no matter if it's an insect 3mm in size, or a 3m tall pachyderm.

Just to note, it was planthopper nymphs that got me in touch with the wildlifeThailand.com forum several years ago. After a few encounters I tried to google what these weird looking creatures are. Very difficult if you have no idea where to start. After many tries with keyword searches like 'white fluffy insect' I stumbled on one of the forum admin's pictures that finally gave me the answer.

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