During my early morning walks I pass many eucalyptus trees. But I noticed one in particular had ‘sugar’ on the leaves. When our daughter was little, she told me the kids used to pick the sugar off the leaves and eat it, as it is sweet. Wondering what the ‘sugar’ would look like under the intensive view of my tiny macro lens for my iPhone camera, I plucked a couple of leaves and brought them home with me.
At first it was exciting… then…eew.
I saw much more than I bargained for. And as I saw, I Googled. And as I Googled, I learned. So I thought I would share it with you.
Apparently the little ‘sugar domes’ are a product of something called a ‘lerp psyllid’. No, you don’t want to know. But why should I suffer alone with this knowledge?? ‘Lerp’ is an Aboriginal word referring to the little dome of ‘sugar’ that covers the insect in its early stage, much as a cocoon covers a caterpillar.
The psyllid is also called ‘Jumping Plant Lice’. Double eew.
The sugary dome is created when the psyllid sucks the liquids from the leaf, passing it through its system (you know what that means…) and is excreted (see, there’s the word) as a sticky substance out its back end. This is called ‘honeydew’. Where we grew up in ‘small-town’ USA, the septic tank cleaners used to be called ‘honey dippers’. Can we say ‘irony’?
I was fortunate (?) enough to pluck one leaf that had both a young psyllid creating its dome, and an adult with wings nearby… no doubt telling it what it was doing wrong.
It will be a while before I am brave enough to put something from nature beneath the scrutiny of my macro lens again. Some things may just be better unexamined.
–yours in ignorant bliss, Ardys.