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Insect Paparazzi: Leafhoppers!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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You might not know this about me but I have a particular science art fetish: I’m into insect photography. By which, of course, I mean photographs taken by insects.

Insect Photographer

In pursuit of this art, I’ve chased insects around so doggedly – sweating in the summer sun, getting bitten all to hell by malarial mosquitos – sometimes I feel like I’m part of the insect paparazzi. Come on, kid, I’ll make you a star. Just lemme take your picture.

It began with the purchase of my first digital point-and-click, which had a macro lens. And it grew to become a tremendous passion. And timesink. Along the way, I’ve totally fallen in love with leafhoppers – one of the most under-appreciated insects in the world. Actually, they aren’t just one insect – they’re a family (Cicadellidae) with over 20,000 described species, making them one of the largest families of plant-feeding insects.

And their close cousins, the treehoppers and planthoppers, are also delightful critters, but I’ll get to them in future posts.

Today: some leafhoppers. They’re so photogenic. You really have to see them in motion to fully appreciate their extraordinary cuteness.

I’ve been photographing them for years. But the pictures in this post were all taken in the past few weeks. Meet this season’s hoppers!

And I found them all in my own front and back yards (well, one was in my next-door-neighbor’s yard – thanks, Kim!) – about 1.5 miles from downtown Raleigh. These are city bugs!

So, you don’t have to go anywhere exotic or even to a state park to find a surprising amount of insect diversity. You just have to be patient and persistent. Most of the domestic leafhoppers are pretty small – a few or several millimeters long. When you walk through grass and see barely-visible little things flitting about, many of those are leafhoppers. They don’t look like much from a distance of five feet. But when you get down and take a closer look they are surprisingly beautiful and colorful and downright adorable.

Here’s a small sampling that I’ve seen around lately. More to come! Please click on the pics to MAKE THEM BIG!…

Japanese Maple Leafhopper

Leafhopper

Leafhopper

Leafhopper

Leafhopper

Leafhopper

Leafhopper

Leafhopper

Leafhopper

Brian Malow About the Author: Science comedian Brian Malow engages in lively conversation with scientists and writers for his own amusement and yours. Follow on Twitter @sciencecomedian.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Neeroc 10:16 am 07/17/2013

    Wow. Those are beautiful. Cannot wait to see more.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Brian Malow in reply to Brian Malow 4:52 pm 07/18/2013

    Thanks! I’ll be adding at least another post of leafhoppers – I’ve shot so many! Also, probably a separate post of leafhopper nymphs – they are really cute.

    Link to this

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