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Tiny hopper on mesquite - Aphalaroida spinifera

Tiny hopper on mesquite - Aphalaroida spinifera
San Pedro River Valley, SE of San Manuel, Pinal County, Arizona, USA
April 30, 2014
Size: 3 mm
Very tiny - I wasn't even sure it was an insect until it jumped away; found on a branch of a flowering Velvet Mesquite Tree (Prosopsis velutina). I would guess a treehopper, but I'm not sure. Thank you.


probably A. spinifera
This may be the most common Aphalaroida on velvet mesquite.

I recently moved to Tucson and I have been studying these. The wing pattern is similar to Aphalaroida I've observed here and have confirmed to be A. spinifera, and consistent with Salvador Vitanza's confirmed spinifera observations on Bugguide as well. A. rauca and A. prosopis can have similar patterns as well but should have much shorter glandular hairs, and A. pithecolobia is not associated with Prosopis.

I would sooner call this one Aphalaroida prosopis Crawford, 1914
While quite a few spp. in this genus have been recorded from Prosopis, A. pithecolobia is not one of them. Matters are complicated by this genus's tendency towards polymorphism, a history of misidentifications, and association with a group of host plants which have recently undergone heavy taxonomic revision to the point that actual host genera are difficult to understand from published records. Hodkinson (1991) is the most recent work on the group, and seeks to clarify some of this confusion; the following commentary is based primarily on that publication (let me know if you'd like a copy of this paper).

While A. pithecolobia is the most widespread and most polymorphic member of the genus, there does not appear to be a form that is maculated quite like this. Instead, refer to A. prosopis and A. rauca, both of which have maculate forms similar like this, both occurring on Prosopis.

However, due to the genus's polymorphism and the possibility of morphs not illustrated in the literature, the best approach to identification with this genus would be based on structural characters. In the absence of male genitalia, perhaps the most important character in the setose-winged Aphalaroida is the presence or absense of a costal break in the forewing. While the angle and marginal wing setae make it difficult, I do believe that I see a costal break here, and that feature is much more obvious in your pale green Aphalaroida that you found nearby (as well as in Eric Eaton's similarly pale green Aphalaroida from Tuscon, Arizona). The presence of the costal break excludes rauca and spinifera and leaves only two possibilities: A. prosopis and A. pithecolobia.

Ignoring wing maculation and without male genitalia, diagnosis between these two similar species is reliant on host (as discussed earlier) and minor differences in wing venation. The latter is problematic from the available photos due to focus as well as maculation and wing setae obscuring venation. But to summarize the differences: A. prosopis has vein Rs curved slightly downward approaching apex, and with cell Cu1a relatively short; A. pithecolobia has Rs more or less straight, with Cu1a elongate.

It is very difficult to make out the veins from this photo, but playing with the contrast in photoshop it appears that Rs curves downward and Cu1a is relatively short and tall. This is consistent with the wing maculation and the host plant in pointing toward A. prosopis, a species only known from southeast Arizona, over the widespread A. pithecolobia (compare to D.B. Thomas's image of A. pithecolobia from S. Texas).

I suspect that the pale green individual is the same species, but I can't make out the apex of Rs (the presence of setae in this area create an illusion that makes it appear the vein could curve either direction - likewise for Eric Eaton's psyllid, which is probably the same species). These differ noticeably from Joyce Gross's Aphalaroida from San Diego which I don't believe to be conspecific with this series.

Thank you
Thank you Chris,
I appreciate your help. I am not sure whether to move this to the other species or not, as I am not at all an expert. I'll leave it up to your discretion.

most likely Aphalaroida pithecolobia --det. R. Gill
Moved from Psylloidea.

Moved from ID Request.

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