Strange Cousins

Posted: July 20th, 2010 under photography, Wildlife.
Tags: , ,

Today when hanging up the wash, I spotted something small on the end of a clothespin that was hanging upside down from the line.   It was the same mottled dull gray-brown as the clothespin itself, and it was between the V of the angled ends.  I carefully removed the clothespin from the line and put it on the table, then went to get my camera.   After a fruitless search for the macro lens (I put it somewhere safe.  Very safe.   Too safe)  I had to use the zoom lens, which is a sort of zoom macro but won’t focus closer than about 18 inches. 

The insect is facing left, under the clothespin arm, clinging with its little striped legs to the clothespin.   It is perfectly camouflaged against the weathered, aged wood of the clothespin.  On rough bark, I would not have spotted it.   It stayed on the clothespin all day, resisting gentle attempts to get it to move to another surface where photography would be easier.  (Between the “arms” of a clothespin is not an easy place to shoot!)

Later, I was able to place it in the slanting light of afternoon sun and got a better picture of the dorsal surface:

In this image you can easily see the pattern on the “back, and the little bumps–they also show in the insect’s shadow, to the right.   I believe I can see antennae trailing back over the dorsum…and some moths have antennae like that, but they don’t have legs like this (I don’t think.)   On the other hand, leaf-hoppers usually have antenna angled forward (if those things on the back are antennae and not more camouflage.)

If this is a leafhopper (no, I haven’t sent the photos to BugGuide yet…I’ll be doing a more thorough hunt for the macro lens in hopes of finding it, and the insect, tomorrow) then it’s a distant cousin to this much more familiar critter:

Tibicen superba on window screen

The cicadas are making the yard far less peaceful than it was a few weeks ago.  East and north of here, Mississippi kites harvest cicadas, but here we have to wait for the arrival of “Cicada Killer” wasps–big scary looking wasps that are large and strong enough to carry off a struggling cicada and stuff it in a burrow to feed their young.


  • Comment by Steve Willson — July 21, 2010 @ 5:07 am


    I can’t put a name to it, but I’ve seen moths like this before. It takes a great deal of prodding to get them to move. When they finally take wing they zip off a lot faster than expected.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 21, 2010 @ 7:37 am


    So…you’re thinking moth, too? I’m about to send off these two images and another to BugGuide. Just spent some time looking at the pages of micro-moth pictures–didn’t find it, but if it says “moth” to you then I have to relabel a lot of cropped images initially marked “leafhopper.” I measured the width of the clothespin this morning (critter was gone, of course) at 9mm. So it would’ve been in the 12-14mm range in length. I have a couple of shots of it positioned across the clothespin tip, with its front end extending about 1/3 beyond.

  • Comment by cdozo — July 21, 2010 @ 8:22 am


  • Comment by elizabeth — July 21, 2010 @ 8:45 am


    Or something very similar…that’s the closest I’ve seen yet, but not quite. I’ve posted the pix to BugGuide ID Request. Wish I’d had the macro lens up for this as it would’ve been better…and also wish the doggone critter had been willing to move *outside* the V of the clothes-pin.

    Thanks for the hint.

  • Comment by Abigail Miller — July 21, 2010 @ 10:06 am


    Oh! Is that what a wax moth looks like, then? Now I know what to watch out for in the vicinity of the new hive. (Or in it, of course. But I think generally it’s only the mealworm-like larvae inside the hive, though of course the adult must get in there sometime to lay the eggs.)

    I am pretty obsessed with the bees. But Elizabeth, I sure wish I had your camera and your skill at bug photos. Camera-dreaming is getting serious here. About to actually buy a roll of FILM (gasp!) and see what I can do with the old SLR with the real ground-glass, what-you-see-is-what-you-get viewfinder.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 21, 2010 @ 10:47 am


    If you’ve got a good old SLR, good film and good developing, you’ll get even better pictures with a fine-grained film. The digital gives me quick feedback and a reusable “film” so it’s less expensive past the first cost, but it’s still not quite “there” in some situations. I’ve finally come to terms with the reality that digital is a different medium–very very similar, but not identical, to film photography. (One good thing is that the better cameras’ handling of color, in things like bluebonnet and blue water lilies, is better–you don’t need a filter to capture the visible blue of a flower that also reflects in the red.)

    I suspect wax moths come in at night, when the bees are pretty much “down,” to lay their eggs.

  • Comment by Chuck — July 21, 2010 @ 8:43 pm


    My favorite summer music is the song of the cicadas. Like James Agee says in “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”: “The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums” (a text set perfectly to human music by Samuel Barber).

    There’s a picture of a cicada nymph over at (the posting for Saturday, July 17, 2010). It looks just like the one I saw a week and a half earlier in Mississippi at my granddad’s old house.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 21, 2010 @ 9:15 pm


    I’m not that found of the cicada song, myself. I like to go out to the yard and hear the water in the water garden…which they drown out. Though not as loud as the ear-splitters we had in South Texas (and occasionally have here)…those things went on and on and literally hurt your ears.

    My favorite summer song, when it’s available, is running water.

  • Comment by Barbara — August 1, 2010 @ 3:13 pm


    I love the sound of cicadas, too, especially since I live too close to a highway and sound barriers have moved the highway noise to my part of the block. Even the normal summer cicadas can drown out the highway noise sometimes; when we had the 17 year cicadas a few years ago their song was fabulously loud. They’re fascinating bugs, too.

    But I agree about the running water – it’s an even more pleasant sound when available.

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