Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Visit From the Psyllid Fairy

What happens when you lose a tooth?  You get a visit from the tooth fairy.  What happens when you write a blog post about hackberry leaf gall psyllids?  You get a visit from the psyllid fairy!!!
Envelope of psyllids and leaf galls - what a great surprise!
A parent of a lower school student, and an accomplished naturalist, learned about hackberry leaf gall psyllids after bajillions of them emerged from the leaf galls of the hackberries around her house.  She had saved some psyllids to identify them and brought some to my mailbox in an envelope after she saw last week's post.  Here's what was in the envelope:
Two hackberry leaves with galls and five hackberry leaf gall psyllids.
Those tiny dots in the picture above are hackberry leaf gall psyllids.  The large brown things are hackberry leaves.  I decided to have a microscope photoshoot with the psyllids, so I used a camera with a narrow lens and held it up to the eyepiece of a microscope to take the following picture:
Adult hackberry leaf gall psyllid at 20x magnification.
The psyllid in the picture above is long dead and a bit dried out, but it still looks pretty good for a dead bug.  Psyllids are true bugs, and true bugs are insects in the group called Hemiptera.  Hemipterans have mouthparts that are good for sucking plant sap, which is what psyllids are up to when they are living inside leaf galls.  You can see the mouthpart of the psyilld pointing down from the head, which is on the left side of the insect.  You can also see one of its antennae pointing to the left of the head. 
Two dried hackberry leaves, each with a leaf gall.
This time of year, the above leaves are all the evidence you'll see of hackberry psyllids.  The adult bugs have hidden away in bark or in cracks around the outside of your house.

Many thanks to the psyllid fairy for the fabulous psyllids!

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't bring myself to leave live psyllids on the envelope, but I'm happy to trot some over anytime. They are still hale and hearty on my windowscreens! Thank you for the kind mention, and for the promotion to title of Psyllid Fairy. I love it.
    Every time I read one of your posts I am motivated to get out of my car and go take a peek at the Outdoor Classroom. Thank you for documenting the amazing things that happen right under our noses, right next to a parking lot and a busy street.