Unusual cicada/moth like creature with upright tail
June 6, 2009
I found this insect on my backyard and looks quite strange. Its about an inch and a half from the head to the tail. I scoured the net but could not find a match. I hope you’ll help me identify this bug.
Despite the speed of our new computer, we really cannot take the time to research this awesome insect at the moment. We have been posting old submissions for hours in an attempt to catch up on mail, but the laundry is in need of attention and there is gardening to do. You are correct in that this is a Cicada Like insect. It is in the Suborder Auchenorrhyncha which includes Cicadas and other Hoppers. We hope one of our readers can supply you with an answer until we can take the time to do some research.
Update from Karl
August 12, 2009
Hi Daniel and Buglover:
This has to be one of my all-time favorite WTB postings, and one of the most challenging. I really would have thought that such a strikingly beautiful creature would be much easier to track down. It seems the “hoppers” fall into one of those taxonomic twilight zones where there is continuous debate about phylogenetic relationships. I had myself convinced that it was a fulgorid planthopper (Suborder Fulgoromorpha = Auchenorrhyncha), but it actually belongs in the obscure and very primitive family Aetalionidae (Suborder Cicadomorpha: Superfamily Membracoidea) and is therefore more closely allied to the leafhoppers (Cicadellidae) and treehoppers (Membracidae). I believe the species (finally) is Darthula hardwickii, but unfortunately I could find out nothing about the biology of this curious bug. Buglover’s photos are amazing and they match perfectly with a lengthy description provided by Kirkaldy (1900), including: “Face concealed beneath the frontal edge of pronotum…pronotum moderately compressed with a central strong longitudinal lunulate ridge…abdomen provided with a long apical process, about or nearly as long as the whole body, covered with long bristly hairs, with a strong triangular tubercle at base… the [wing] veins raised and prominent”. Apparently it is the largest known leafhopper, at a length of 28 mm, including the 12 mm abdominal appendage. The distribution is given as the Himalayan region from India/Nepal to western Yunnan, China. For another look there is a set of two incredible macro shots of the same creature on flickr (labeled “unidentified Fulgoroidea”). Thanks Buglover – that was awesome!