Monday, November 13, 2006

Tree mallow hopper, Eupteryx melissae

Another discovery from my epic field trip to the suburbs of Bexhill-on-Sea. In an abandoned garden I found many large plants of tree mallow, Lavatera arborea. Their leaves were an unusual whitish green (see top picture), undoubtedly the effect of locust-like numbers of the plant hopper Eupteryx melissae that flew from the mallows in clouds evey time one of the plants was shaken.

This hopper, which also feeds on labiates, has not often been recorded in Sussex and,though I have frequently come across tree mallow, I have not seen the insect before.

People sometimes ask how I identify some of these more obscure insects. In a case like this where the species is clearly associated with a plant whose name I know I usually go to the Ecological Flora of the British Isles.

Under tree mallow there are only two options among the insects that enjoy eating this plant and one of them is a leaf hopper (Cicadellidae) called Eupteryx melissae. There are some pictures of this on the Internet and I get confirming details from the Royal Entomological Society's Handbook on the Cicadellidae.

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