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)

Publicado por psyllidhipster psyllidhipster, 24 de abril de 2017, 02:17 AM


"A rarely-collected related species has also been recorded from Newport Beach in Southern California."

Well, I can check for this one since I visit those saltmarshes. What's it look like?

Publicado por silversea_starsong mais de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

Small (about 1.5mm), green, wings white with brown spots. Similar to this one:

Publicado por psyllidhipster mais de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

And that's also on Frankenia like Craspedolepta martini? They sound quite similar.

Publicado por silversea_starsong mais de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

Yep, also on Frankenia salina. Many of the Craspedolepta species are confusingly similar, although most of them feed on Asteraceae (Artemisia & Solidago in particular but also others)

Publicado por psyllidhipster mais de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

I've wanted to shake up Frankenia before because that's where many of the marsh ladybugs probably hide too.

What's the best way to separate those two species? If I find a bunch of both, it would be good to separate them before they
start hopping away.

Publicado por silversea_starsong mais de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

C. viridis is smaller (1.5mm) and described simply as having "scattered brown spots on the wing". C. martini is larger (2.5mm) and in addition to these scattered brown spots is described as also having a distinct fuscous cloud on veins Cu2 and the apex of Rs. Minor differences in the male genitalia as well but that would be hard to work out in the field, but if you're able to get pics of course they would be useful.

Publicado por psyllidhipster mais de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

Had at least one species from Frankenia at Talbert today. There were different sizes but maybe just male/female differences.

Publicado por silversea_starsong mais de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

Nice! Excited to see them. I'll have to head down there sometime now that I know that they're there.

Publicado por psyllidhipster mais de 5 anos antes (Sinalizar)

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