Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 49 comments

I’ve had trouble remembering which of two similar common names is which: planthopper and leafhopper. A glance at an article about leafhoppers convinced me that’s the kind of insect in today’s picture. This one sure is colorful, don’t you think? And what big bulgy eyes for such a small (maybe a third of an inch long) critter. I found it on the stalk of a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) a couple of miles from home on June 17th. If you’d like to zoom in for a more detailed look, all you have to do is click the excerpt below.

Thanks to the diligent folks at BugGuide, I declare this leafhopper to be Oncometopia orbona, known as a broad-headed sharpshooter (hey, that could just as well apply to photographer me). To see and learn about some other leafhoppers in Austin, you can visit Val Bugh’s Austin Bug Collection.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 8, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

49 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Wow. That color combination is amazing–it looks like it was hand-painted. Super job, Steve, in capturing so much detail of this tiny critter. I think the design would make a wonderful piece of jewelry. People wear jewelry modeled after butterflies and dragonflies, so why not leafhoppers?

    Mike Powell

    July 8, 2020 at 6:36 AM

    • Given the leafhopper’s small size and the fact that it occasionally walked to a different place, getting most of it in focus wasn’t easy. I see that I took 14 pictures, and fortunately this one came out pretty well.

      As you say, people have made jewelry in the likeness of butterflies and dragonflies, so why not a leafhopper. With miniaturized drone technology, maybe that leafhopper could even occasionally hop onto someone who was talking to the wearer: imagine the surprise.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2020 at 8:38 AM

      • Nano technology–yikes! Still, a small leafhopper might not freak people out the way that a spider might.

        Mike Powell

        July 8, 2020 at 8:50 AM

        • For jewelry, I was thinking the leafhopper would have to be much larger than life-size—large enough to startle someone it jumped on.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 8, 2020 at 2:07 PM

  2. Zooming in for more detail really shows off those huge eyes and the many vibrant colors. I actually found my self quite drawn to the detail on the stalk of the sunflower. I wonder what the longer “feelers” are, among the small fuzzies?


    July 8, 2020 at 6:37 AM

    • Zooming in is the way to go here, especially for the huge eye. I’d have been remiss not to provide a closer view.

      I’ve long noticed the hairiness of sunflower stalks. Unfortunately I don’t know what purpose they serve, if any.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2020 at 2:11 PM

  3. Clicking on the image of the leafhopper made all the difference. The ordinary-looking insect was transformed into a real beauty. I especially liked the colourful patterns on its wings, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    July 8, 2020 at 7:54 AM

    • This was the first time I ever noticed how colorful a leafhopper could be, and also what a bulging eye it has on each side of its head. These insects are so small that it would be easy to overlook them altogether.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2020 at 3:09 PM

  4. I see these little guys often and just love them. I love to gently touch them and watch them go BOING!!! Who knew their eyes were so big?!


    July 8, 2020 at 8:04 AM

    • Eventually mine went BOING!!! too after I eventually kept near it too long or got too close. It’s good that you often see them, which I don’t.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2020 at 3:20 PM

      • I used to see them a lot more, now that you mention it. Sad to see so few insects.


        July 8, 2020 at 10:48 PM

        • I see zillions of insects here, just not that many leafhoppers.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 8, 2020 at 10:56 PM

          • That’s interesting. I guess it might be leafier here.


            July 9, 2020 at 11:04 AM

            • Or maybe I just haven’t looked carefully enough.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 9, 2020 at 11:08 AM

              • You’ll have to let me know. We have several species here and they are all abundant and notable. They are liable to jump onto a person as you pass by.


                July 10, 2020 at 9:33 AM

                • It sounds like you just have more of them. None have ever jumped on me, at least not that I was aware of.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 10, 2020 at 1:21 PM

                • Oh, you’d notice. Sometimes it feels like it is raining insects! 🙂


                  July 11, 2020 at 9:27 AM

  5. Dear BHS – My eyes got big when I examined your photo, I never realized how colorful these little guys were! Looks a bit like speckled enamelware, and I agree with Mike Powell, seems like a natural for jewelry design, maybe when the Pharaoh’s scarab jewelry comes back into fashion.

    Robert Parker

    July 8, 2020 at 9:38 AM

    • The Broad-Headed Sharpshooter replies: It’s good that your vision of enamelware didn’t cause your eyes to glaze over. Quite the contrary; maybe you can even reverse the time arrow and bring the Pharaoh’s scarab jewelry back into fashion by launching a trendy leafhopper jewelry line first.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2020 at 3:29 PM

  6. What big eyes you have, o bullfrog of bugs.

    Michael Scandling

    July 8, 2020 at 10:18 AM

  7. You caught the beauty of this bug, nice work. BigGuide is great, but I’m glad you also linked to Valerie’s Bugs (though I didn’t know her last name). Her website is such a great resource and I’ve used it repeatedly. It’s my go-to when I need a bug guide. 🙂


    July 8, 2020 at 10:23 AM

    • Yes, and when it comes to bugs, Val Bugh has a seemingly providential last name. She really knows the little critters in these here parts. You may also be surprised to learn that she plays clarinet in the Austin Opera and Gilbert and Sullivan orchestras.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2020 at 3:38 PM

  8. Cool capture of the bug’s details and the stem, Steve!

    Ellen Jennings

    July 8, 2020 at 10:26 AM

    • I was pleased with how well this frame turned out. I was photographing the sunflower when I noticed the leafhopper on the stalk and quickly changed my focus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2020 at 3:40 PM

  9. Wow, fabulous detail, Steve. With eyes like that, no wonder they see us coming and flee before we have a chance to catch them.

    Eliza Waters

    July 8, 2020 at 10:46 AM

    • You said it, though in this case the leafhopper tolerated my presence long enough for me to take a bunch of pictures. Eventually it did bound away, putting an end to my portraiture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2020 at 3:42 PM

  10. Its colors and markings are gorgeous. I am kind of surprised it doesn’t have a more colorful common name.

    Not only are its eyes big so is its nose… or where I perceive the nose to be.


    July 8, 2020 at 1:13 PM

    • I just searched again and turned up no common name except broad-headed sharpshooter. That snout does seem huge for such a small critter, doesn’t it?

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2020 at 4:00 PM

      • I guess they tried to get it in there with “broadheaded”. 😀
        I went down the rabbit hole of looking them up. Your image is the best image of this one I’ve seen! Not even the bugguide had one this good!


        July 9, 2020 at 8:24 AM

  11. I’ve always thought of leafhoppers as small, green, and relatively nondescript. This one’s small, but those vibrant colors and intricate patterns are far from nondescript. That large, rounded snout is wonderful. It reminds me of the engine of a Streamliner train.


    July 9, 2020 at 6:47 AM

    • My understanding is that the nondescript green ones are planthoppers. The similarity to the name leafhopper, plus the fact that both are small, makes for easy confusion. For this leafhopper, I understand how its snout would call up an image of a streamlined locomotive.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2020 at 6:55 AM

      • A little reading confirmed that what I’ve seen are planthoppers. It also made clear that the same variety in colors and patterns that exists among the leafhoppers can be found in the planthoppers. This planthopper certainly could compete with your leafhopper in an insect beauty contest, although I’d be more inclined to wear yours as jewelry.


        July 9, 2020 at 7:40 AM

        • That’s some great planthopper. I’d love to see it here. As far as I recall, I’ve only seen the nondescript green ones, and that has colored my view of planthoppers as being less visually interesting.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 9, 2020 at 8:16 AM

  12. A colorful little fellow, Linda!

    Lavinia Ross

    July 9, 2020 at 10:25 AM

    • That was a great little critter she linked to. I’d love to see it, but as it lives in in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Laos, Thailand and other parts of southeast Asia, I don’t think I will.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2020 at 11:05 AM

  13. I’ve photographed a few leafhoppers which, although colorful, can’t hold a candle to this gorgeously glorious/gloriously gorgeous bug. With those eyes, I bet it has 360 degree vision.

    Steve Gingold

    July 9, 2020 at 2:44 PM

    • I feel for your dilemma in deciding between gorgeously glorious and gloriously gorgeous. This was a cutie, that’s for sure. Right up there with some of your big-eyed froggies.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2020 at 2:52 PM

  14. Excellent macro, Steve. I zoomed in and couldn’t believe my … eyes!


    July 11, 2020 at 6:13 AM

  15. My personal favorites are the red-banded ones (Graphocephala coccinea), but this one’s definitely a really amazing beauty too. And, yes, oh, those eyes!


    July 11, 2020 at 9:05 PM

  16. I love leafhoppers – this guy is positively ornate in his decoration! It’s a good thing you ARE a sharpshooter, otherwise, I’m sure we would have missed him!


    July 12, 2020 at 4:02 PM

    • “Positively ornate” is a good way to put it. I’d never seen anything like it. Fortunately my macro lens is a sharpshooter, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2020 at 8:48 PM

  17. What a handsome bug!


    July 16, 2020 at 1:58 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: