Sunday, July 27, 2014

little green leafhopper

little green leafhopper
perched on the curving style 
of a yellow daylily,
sucking the lily's sweet sap,
eyes shining bright red

On the stem of this asparagus fern, spaced about a hand's width apart, three tiny leafhoppers are so busy sucking sap that none of them budge when I take a close-up.

This leaf-shaped insect is not a leafhopper, but a long-horned grasshopper or katydid. The long horns refer to its long antenna and it's called a katydid from the sound of the male's mating call, made by rubbing a scraper on one foreleg against the toothed edge of the other foreleg. It feels rather than hears with its antenna, and its hearing organs or tympana are actually located on its forelegs. That must sound really loud to its own "ears"!
          It's a much bigger insect than the minute leafhopper and the katydid chews plants rather than sucks sapLike other grasshoppers, it prefers to hop rather than use its wings to fly. Katydids can also climb up (or down) walls, as this one is doing. It's leaf camouflage doesn't work very well on the white siding, so maybe that's why it's heading for the tip of a Sansevieria leaf. 
          We used to call this pointy-leafed plant "mother-in-law's tongue," because its leaves look like sharp tongues. Now that I am a mother-in-law, I prefer to call it a sword plant. But when I was a child, we had a potted mother-in-law's tongue sitting in the upstairs hallway. This leathery-leaved plant survived in the dim light and dry indoor air. 
          To me it was a miniature forest and I was a kind of Walt Disney version of Johnny Appleseed, planting the seeds I saved from my school lunch apple in the dry soil. My mother only watered the plant once a month, so naturally the seeds never sprouted. And even if they had, I didn't know that they would not grow up to produce the same kind of sweet apple that the seed came from.  Now I have an orchard with heirloom apple trees that have been grafted to run "true," but like the historical John Chapman I still plant a few of the seeds and nurse any that sprout. Who knows? Maybe one day I'll discover a tasty new apple species.

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