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Subject: Unidentified reed insect
Location: Gifberg, South Africa (S 31.77 E 18.76)
April 1, 2014 2:41 pm
Dear bugman
I found this insect North of the Cederberg, in South Africa. It jumped into the open 4×4 truck window from some tall grasses/reeds we were driving through. It seemed capable of jumping, although its legs seem incapable of this feat. Any idea what it may be? I am from South Africa but never saw something like this before. Length was approx 20mm.
Signature: Francois

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What’s That Bug???

Dear Francois,
This has to be one of the most unusual creatures we have ever been asked to identify, and we really don’t know where to begin regarding its classification, except that it is a Hexapod.  We haven’t the time to research this at this moment, so we are posting your photos and we will attempt the identification later today.  Perhaps our readership will take a stab at this while we are away from the office.

What's That Bug???

What’s That Bug???

Karl Identifies Leafhopper
Hi Daniel and Francois:
Given the submission date Daniel, it crossed my mind that you were perhaps being pranked with this one. However, it turns out to be a Restio Leafhopper (Family Cicadellidae: Subfamily Ulopinae: Tribe Cephalelini). These leafhoppers are native to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and the common name derives from the fact that all South African members of the Cephalelini are associated exclusively with the Restionaceae plant family. South Africa has 23 species of Restio Leafhoppers in four genera, 18 of which belong to the genus Cephalelus (so odds are that this is one). All the photos I was able to find showed winged individuals so I expect that this one is a juvenile. If you want to know how such a short-legged beast was able to jump into your truck you could check out this site (stop-action photos and description of Cephalelus in action). Regards. Karl

Eric Eaton Identifies Fulgorid Planthopper
Some kind of fulgoroid.  Will have to get back to you later with a more specific answer as I’ll have to look it up and/or query a colleague.

Update:  Restio Leafhopper
Ariella wrote today in a comment that this is a Restio Leafhopper,
Cephalelus uncinatus, a species pictured on ISpot.

Update from Chris Dietrich
It’s a nymph of the leafhopper (Cicadellidae) genus Cephalelus, which belongs to a tribe that is disjunct in South Africa and Australia.  They feed only on Restionaceae.


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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Gifberg, South Africa

12 Responses to Mystery Insect from South Africa is Restio Leafhopper

  1. Feminist Phasmid says:

    The entomologist Richard Jones (@bugmanjones) on Twitter said perhaps a leafhopper nymph family fulgoridae. I saw there are some similar looking examples on google image search…

    • bugman says:

      Thanks so much. You were the first of the stream of identifications that poured in today while we were away.

  2. Ariella says:

    Hi Francois

    This is a pretty awesome little Hemipteran called a Restio Leafhopper. The genus is Cephalelus, and they’re so flat and elongated because they flatten themselves against restio stems in order to mimic the leaf bracts (restios are reed-like plants). They are indeed unable to jump. I’m always hoping to find one but, alas, have so far been unlucky.

    • bugman says:

      Thanks so much for providing this information. We have been away from the office all day and we are approving your comments.

  3. Ariella says:

    PS. Just saw your comment that it jumped into your vehicle. Did you see it jump? Would be interesting, since the insect guide book says that they are incapable of jumping.

  4. Michael says:

    I’m no expert, but could it be a plant hopper of some kind?

  5. sccabrian says:

    I’m certain that this is plant hopper. If I had to guess, I would say it’s a Cicadellid in the tribe Cephalelini which is found in Africa and Australia. I can’t tell from the picture if it is a nymph or maybe a brachypterous adult, but it sure is a cool bug!

    • bugman says:

      Thanks so much for providing some information. We will be searching for some appropriate links in the near future.

  6. Willem says:

    The nymph is a restio leafhopper from the genus Cephalelus. My guess: C. angustatus or C. uncinatus. Hoppers from the other South African genus, Duospina, have much shorter crowns (i.e. the nose like part). For references see paper posted by Chris.

  7. Willem says:

    Good guess, it is a nymph. Even unwinged adults in this group have elytra-like forewings. Only the females sometimes have wings. When they do have wings, the most obvious feature is a very swollen pronotum (where the wing muscles are located I guess).

    You can find this information in: Davies DM. 1988. Leafhoppers (Homoptera: Cicadellidae) associated with the Restionaceae, 1. The tribe Cephalelini (Ulopinae). Journal of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa. 51: 31-64

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