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Rhododendron leafhoppers

Posted: Tuesday 29 July 2014
by Richard Jones

The best time to sneak up on flighty insects is when they're occupied - when they're feeding, sunbathing or having sex.


The best time to sneak up on flighty insects is when they're occupied - when they're feeding, sunbathing or having sex.

So it was with these rhododendron leafhoppers, Graphocephala fennahi, which sat immobile, apart from the occasional listless flick of their wings, for over an hour. I don't find these lovely insects in my garden, because I don't grow rhododendrons. However, my hosts for a Monday evening barbecue do, and I'm able to leisurely point them out.

Like all hoppers they mate tail to tail. This, in part, accounts for their immobility since they have in effect become a push-me-pull-you, unable (or unwilling) to go one way or the other. Insects like flies or beetles mate one above the other, both heads facing the same direction, and they can often fly together, if in a slightly ungainly manner. Even so, mating insects tend to remain stiller than non-mating.

Graphocephala is now common in parts of the UK, having arrived somehow from North America during the 1930s. My hosts are unfamiliar with it. I'm not sure if this is because the garden for this particular barbecue is in Munich, and the hopper only appeared in this part of Central Europe in the 1970s, or because they're not quite as interested in insects as am I.

I suspect the latter, but because the leafhoppers are calmly preoccupied in procreation, we can all admire their splendour as we wait for the bratwurst to cook.







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