Mystery: Possibly Issid Planthopper on Ceanothus

Rocket Bug
April 15, 2010
Photos are 2010-04-10
Three stages of the bug
Host plant is Ceanothus megacarpus
Santa Monica Mountains, CA
Bug oozes clear fluid
Bug length ~ .25 inch
Santa Monica Mountains, CA


Dear Pinetar,
This is a Planthopper in the superfamily Fulgoroidea, but we have not had much success identifying the species on BugGuide.  Your photos are quite wonderful and comprehensive.  They depict the winged adult as well as the nymphs, and the white individual is a newly metamorphosed adult.

newly metamorphosed Planthopper

We like when the host plant species is identified in the letter as that often helps in the identification, but in this case, our early attempts at species identification have drawn blanks.  We are going to try to find some experts who can assist in this identification, but we have additional questions.  Is the host plant in a garden or is it growing wild?  We believe your individuals are in the family Issidae which is represented on BugGuide with this information:  “Issidae usually have shorter wings than Flatidae, and lack the warty surface on the forewings where they meet over the back. Issid nymphs have straight, bundled wax filaments projecting from the rear, not bushy as in flatid nymphs.

Immature Planthoppers

Thank you for your speedy and accurate reply. I am impressed.
Your ID as Issid Neaethus (photo 64951) looks darn close.
My darling Rocket Bugs are from the wilds of the Santa Monica Mountains – on the Old Boney Trail at ~1,800ft.
I have attached 3 more frames that might help.
304    –  rocket bug face-off
310    –  another close-up of our plant hopper
299    –  this frame has 2 interesting features
1 – 2 nymphs in an alternate phase, where the rocket exhaust is gone,   the abdomen is greatly swollen,   the eyes have darkened  and  the wings are enlarged and in permanent extension.  Perhaps it is about to enter metamorphosis
2 – note the clear fluid on a twigglet near the bottom of the frame – this is from the plant hoppers. It caused the ground to look like it had rained and is what made me stop and investigate the source.
At first I thought the ‘rain’ was coming directly from the ceanothus – and without thinking I tasted it – now my wife says I’m beginning to resemble a rocket bug –  I do have to admit that the little guys are starting to look darn right beautiful to me  – and maybe I am developing a hankering for that big-pod buckbrush – so what. She hopes I enter metamorphosis and fly away.
Oh well – it’s all for science – there has to be some sacrifice.
Thanks for your continued interest in this bug.
Let me know what you scare up.

Planthopper Nymphs

Hi John,
Thanks so much for the follow up information.  We will link to Neaethus on BugGuide.  Many Aphids and Planhoppers exude honeydew which is sweet and sticky.

Issid Planthopper Colony

2 thoughts on “Mystery: Possibly Issid Planthopper on Ceanothus”

  1. May 14, 2013: Been watching these nymphs by the thousands at Circle X Ranch/ Grotto trail in the Santa Monica Mountains since March 28, when we first noticed them in large numbers. They seemed to like mugwort and wild cucumber as nymphs.

    They are in adult phase now; wings are mottled black and white. So different than the pics above. Adults crawling all over ceanothus and laurel sumac.
    Thanks for helping solve the mystery of “what’s this bug?!”


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