Photo of the Week – December 17, 2010

I don’t usually think about photographing insects during the winter, but I found this tiny tree hopper crawling on my kitchen sink last night. 

I’m pretty sure the tree hopper hitchhiked to my house in a bag of lettuce.  I don’t think it’s going to cause any ecological problems, but it’s a good reminder of the ease with which invasive species can move around the world.  I have no idea where that bag of lettuce was harvested, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t come from here in Nebraska. 

Now the question is – what do I do with it?  It’s not going to survive long in the ziplock bag it’s in right now.  Do I let it roam around the house?  Do I put it outside in the freezing cold?  Do I put it back in the lettuce bag?

Anyone looking for a pet?

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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7 Responses to Photo of the Week – December 17, 2010

  1. Nate Walker says:

    It looks like a Three Cornered Alfalfa Hopper, a fairly common species across the country from the sounds of it. http://insects.tamu.edu/fieldguide/aimg84.html. I also found some great pictures on Bugguide.net.

    As to what to do with it, that’s up to you to decide. If it gives you the “puppy dog eyes” you could always keep it for a pet until spring. You could grow some of your garden vegetables in the house this winter so it has something to feed on. [Threecornered alfalfa hoppers have a wide host range that includes alfalfa, clovers, cowpeas, grasses (Bermudagrass, Johnsongrass), small grains (barley, oats, wheat), soybeans, sunflowers, tomatoes, vetch and weeds. Adult and nymph stages can be found by sweeping soybean or alfalfa fields and weedy areas. – from Texas A&M]

    Cool picture though; thanks for sharing!!

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Nate – great information, thanks.. Expect a package in the mail very soon. You might want to open it right away…
      (you might also want to pick up some lettuce on your way home tonight)

  2. Stew Magnuson says:

    I wouldn’t buy that brand of lettuce anymore, that’s for sure.

  3. Eric says:

    Find something that eats leaf hoppers and let the food chain do the rest…

  4. I agree with Nate. Maybe a small aquarium tuned into a TCA Hopper habitat. And a photo once or twice a month until it is released :-). What are you naming it?

  5. Alison Krohn says:

    Let it roam till a spider finds it? Assuming you have a spider somewhere. I know we do. The cat doesn’t like lizards….

  6. Ernest ochsner says:

    Now I know where they got the patterns for locomotives. What a cute little creature and probably cold as well.
    Ernie

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