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Brown Leafhopper - Alotartessus iambe

Family Cicadellidae, Subfamily Tartessinae 

This page contains pictures and information about Brown Leafhoppers that we found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.
 
Body length 10mm 
 
The leafhopper is medium in size and pale brown in colour.
 
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This Leafhopper is common on young tree stems in Brisbane Eucalyptus forest. They are attended by different species of ants. 
 
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The ants come for their honey dew. The treehoppers suck the plant juice. Within the juice, there are water and sugar more than the leafhoppers need. They are excreted as honeydew. 
 
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Those young nymphs were found on the same small tree. Their body colour were quite different with the adults.. 
 
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Leafhopper nymphs, body length 8mm 
 
The body colours of the Brown Leafhopper nymphs are quite different from their adults. Their colours are even different in different instars stages. 
 
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From its wing buds, we believed this was a last instars leafhopper. Its body was black in colour, with a wide yellow line on its back and white spots under eyes and abdomen. Pictures were taken in Karawatha Forest during early summer.
 
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There was one dry curl leaf on the plant. We opened the leaf (above 2nd pictures) and found many leafhopper empty shells on the leaf. We believed this could be the secret place that those leafhoppers do the moulting. 
 
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Jumping Spider Mimicry 

In early summer Oct 2007, we found this  planthopper nymph. We noticed that the nymph has the pattern on it face look like a jumping spider's face. We believed that it is another example of Jumping spider face Mimicry (check this page for another example). 
 
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When we first saw this planthopper face to face, we did think it was a jumping spider. After the planthopper moved, we looked at it at the side view, it nothing looked like a jumping spider.
 
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Unlike the planthopper we mentioned above, never turn sideway to avoid give away its identity, this planthopper nymph did turn around to any direction when disturbed. But we notice that when this nymph rested, it rested at the V-shaped gap formed by the stem and a leaf. So its back was well protected and unseen.
 

 
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We also notice that they were attended by at least two different small ants species. This indicated that those small ants are not the targets of the mimicry. Small ants' vision may not good enough to see their face anyway. Possibly the good vision Jumping Spiders, the larger ants and the vertebrate predators are the targets.
 
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The Host Plant

Smudgee
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Angophora woodsiana, family Myrtaceae
 
The tree with fine shortly fibrous "peppermint" bark. It has opposite leaves which distinguish it from Eucalyptus species. This tree is common in Brisbane Eucalyptus Forest. 
 

Reference:
1. Alotartessus iambe - Fletcher, M.J. and Larivire, M.-C. (2001 and updates). 
2. Species Alotartessus iambe (Kirkaldy, 1907) - Australian Biological Resources Study, Department of the Environment and Heritage. 

 

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Last updated: March 21, 2012.