Journal archives for April 2017

April 24, 2017

Notes on some California native & endemic psyllids

While most attention is given to introduced species, about 130 species of native psyllids have been recorded from California, more than any other state. About one quarter of those have not been found anywhere else, and about one quarter of those (1 2 3 4 5 6 7), or about 8 species total, have been photographed in the wild. As it is peak psyllid season right now, I'm writing this post to raise awareness to some of California's other native species, what to look for, and where to find them.

1. Craspedolepta martini

Host: Frankenia salina (alkali heath)

Alkali heath is a staple of salt marshes throughout California, and at least two small psyllid species are associated with the plant. The adults are brown with spotted wings, similar to this species which is associated with Suaeda nigra. The nymphs are supposedly often abundant on the ventral surface of younger leaves, producing sticky honeydew and inducing the leaves to curl. A map of the historic distribution of this psyllid is given:

which roughly matches the Calflora distribution map of the host. However, iNaturalist data shows almost entirely coastal records for the host and almost no central valley records, and while the psyllid was commonly collected in the central valley a century ago, all recent collections have been from coastal localities. It is likely that as the central valley's land was converted for agriculture, much of this psyllid's natural habitat was destroyed. The species was last collected in 1984 from Moss Landing in Monterey county, and two years prior from Ventura county. A rarely-collected related species has also been recorded from Newport Beach in Southern California.

2. Calophya nigrella

Host: Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac)

Rhus aromatica. Photo: Jesse Rorabaugh
Sumacs are a commonly used host by nearly a dozen different psyllid species in North America belonging to the genus Calophya. Those on the east coast, for example, may be familiar with the dark-winged Calophya nigripennis which is associated with Winged Sumac (Rhus copallinum):

Calophya nigripennis. Photo © bealeiderman, CC BY-NC 4.0
While those in coastal southern California may be more familiar with Calophya californica, an uncommon and inconspicuous associate of lemonadeberry and sugar sumac:

Calophya californica. Photo: Jesse Rorabaugh
However, several other Calophya species are associated with Rhus in California: the widespread Calophya triozomima (photo) and the apparently rare Calophya nigrella, both known from Rhus aromatica. A map of all three species in southern California is given:

Green: C. californica. Purple: C. triozomima. Orange: C. nigrella.
A closer look at the known distributions of the two rarer species:

Calophya nigrella is easily distinguishable from the other California Calophya in having black wings, similar to the eastern C. nigripennis, though the body is light brown to reddish-brown instead of yellow. The nymphs are scale-like and occur on the branches. The species was collected from 4 sites between 1940 and 1943, between March and May. To my knowledge, it has not been seen since then. A related, dark-winged Calophya species was described from a single specimen from Washington, and I think it is reasonable to assume that the distribution of both of these dark-winged species is broader than what is currently known. Perhaps Rhus aromatica's vague similarity to poison oak (which, as an aside, some Calophya spp. have been known to use) acts as a deterrent to those looking for tiny insects.

If there is interest, I would be happy to write about more of Californian's species. To date, an amazing 50 of California's native species have been photographed! But that still leaves up to 80 more species that remain elusive, and while some of those are known from single records or are possibly misidentified, there are still many interesting psyllids out there waiting to be found, provided that we know where to look for them.

To close, here are a couple recent additions to that number of California natives that have been photographed: the island mallow psyllid (which I found earlier this month) and one of our two mistletoe psyllids (found and photographed by Jesse Rorabaugh @glmory last week)

Posted on April 24, 2017 02:17 by psyllidhipster psyllidhipster | 8 comments | Leave a comment

April 27, 2017

2017 to-date psyllid statistics

In 2016 there were 384 North American psyllid observations totaling 73 total species (across both BugGuide and iNaturalist, ignoring duplicates), blowing away 2015's record of 148 observations of 42 total species. Can we beat that record in 2017?

4 months into 2017, and collectively there have been 148 observations of 36 species so far. Of those 36, four species have never been photographed prior. Statistically, May and June are the best two months for psyllids (averaging 55 species per month across all years), so numbers are likely to increase in the next two months. Here are some other statistics:

Most observed species

Species Unique contributors Total observations
Glycaspis brimblecombei 9 20
Pachypsylla venusta 7 8
Ctenarytaina eucalypti 6 10
Trioza eugeniae 5 11
Ctenarytaina spatulata 5 6
Pachypsylla celtidismamma 5 5
Baeoalitriozus diospyri 4 4
Cacopsylla curta 3 15
Calophya californica 3 6
Bactericera cockerelli 3 4
Calophya schini 3 4
Unsurprisingly, the species at the top are the ones that make the most conspicuous lerps/galls, while more inconspicuous psyllids including many native species are near the bottom.

Observations per state

State Observations Total species
California 103 22
Texas 20 6
Arizona 15 4
Tennessee 4 4
Of course, psyllid season starts a lot sooner in the southwest and some species can be found year-round in California. Observations from the east should start picking up soon.

Top Observers

Person Total species Total observations
Chris Mallory 10 24
James Bailey 8 11
Alice Abela 6 12
Jesse Rorabaugh 6 11
Salvador Vitanza 5 15
Rebecca Marschall 4 9
Ron Matsumoto 3 10
Maybe there should be a prize for whoever records the most species at the end of year? :P


55% of observations represent native species
45% of observations represent introduced species
99% of observations identified to at least genus (compared to 97% average from previous years)
95% of observations identified to species (compared to 81% average from previous years)

New species for 2017

Trioza phoradendri first found by Jesse Rorabaugh in CA
Cacopsylla nigranervosa first found by Alice Abela in CA
Leuronota maculata first found by Salvador Vitanza in AZ
Aphalaroida spinifera first found by Salvador Vitanza in AZ
In 2016 there were 17 species recorded that had not been photographed prior. I think that number may be untouchable this year, but who knows!

I'm sure I'm probably the only person that cares about these statistics. But, at least I'm not the only one who cares about these insects, or at least cares enough about them to photograph them :)
Posted on April 27, 2017 03:19 by psyllidhipster psyllidhipster | 9 comments | Leave a comment