Answer to the Monday Night Mystery

What was yesterday’s Panamanian bug of intrigue and mystery?

Here’s one lurking inconspicuously among some Dolichoderus bispinosus ants:

Lophyraspis muscaria
An adult ant-mimicking plant hopper, Lophyraspis muscaria, at left, blends in with Dolichoderus ants as they tend honeydew-producing nymphs on a Panamanian bromeliad. Gamboa, Panama.

So the correct answer is Aetalionidae: Lophyraspis, and the model is Dolichoderus. I am also accepting what I understand to be the junior synonym, Gerridius.

Points are awarded as follows:

5 to Jason Cryan for family & partial for genus, 2 to Mark Sturtevant for picking the valid generic name, 4 to Rodolfo for getting the mimic, and 1 consolation point each to Jason C and Matt P for discussing other possible models (although, Camponotus sericeiventris is likely a stretch given its size).

In life, the bug’s camouflage is effective. I did not immediately notice it among the ants. Oddly, Lophyraspis is a backwards mimic, so that the head of the bug appears to be the ant’s backside. So. Um. Hairy butt mimic.

source: Sakakibara, AM,  Creao-Duarte, AJ. (2004) Sobre o gênero Lophyraspis Stål e descrição de novas espécies (Hemiptera, Aetalionidae, Biturritiinae). Rev. Bras. entomol. [online]. 48:193-197.


5 thoughts on “Answer to the Monday Night Mystery”

  1. That second hopper is a true treehopper (family Membracidae) – something akin to Publilia and Tylopelta. I wonder if the nymphs actually belong to the membracid rather than the aetalionid…

    1. I was wondering that, too. Ted. I suspect the nymphs are aetalionids from the length of the legs, but I’m really not sure.

      1. I think you’re right – browsing photos reveals the nymphs of Publilia, Tylopelta, Bolbonota, and that ilk have a completely different gestalt than the nymphs in your photo. The green treehopper, however, does seem to be guarding its own egg mass.

  2. It’s interesting to me that the coloration of the hairs is mimicked – these ants would rely more on chemical “scent” than visuals, right? Perhaps the hopper is also trying to gain whatever benefit golden hairs provides, one which presumably involves other non-ant organisms. I guess I usually think of ant-mimicry solely as a way to trick the mimicked ants, but here it might also be used to trick predators.

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