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New Zealand spinach planthopper - Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia)

By N A Martin (2019)

Classification

Phylum:
Arthropoda
Class:
Insecta
Order:
Hemiptera
Family:
Delphacidae
Scientific Name:
Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia)
  • Adult male New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the short wings. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
    Adult male New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the short wings. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
  • Nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) on a leaf of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae): note the wing buds. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) on a leaf of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae): note the wing buds. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Common Names

New Zealand spinach planthopper, NZ spinach planthopper
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Taxonomic Notes

This species of planthopper (Delphacidae) has not been identified. All known adults are brachypterous (short winged) and were breeding on New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae).
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Biostatus and Distribution

This endemic planthopper has been found around Auckland on its coastal host plant, New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae). It may also occur on New Zealand spinach, Tetragonia tetragonioides.

Conservation status: Probably widespread on its host plant.

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Life Stages and Annual Cycle

The New Zealand spinach planthopper has been found breeding in spring and early summer. It may continue breeding over the whole summer.

So far the only adults found have been brachypterous, short-winged and are therefore not able to fly. Fully winged adults may also exist. They have two pairs of wings, three pairs of legs and one pair of antennae. The adults are mid brown with pale and dark markings. The legs are pale brown with irregularly shaped darker areas. The undersides of the abdominal segments are mainly dark with pale cuticle between the segments. The compound eyes are on the side of the head. A rostrum that holds the feeding stylets projects from the lower side of the head and when not being used is held between the legs. At the base of the rostrum is an almost black segment.

At the end of the female abdomen is the ovipositor for laying eggs. The eggs are probably inserted into a plant stem or leaf.

Young nymphs have not been observed. The large nymphs have a pale background colour with dark lateral areas of the upper side body that may meet on the thorax (middle part of the body). They have dark antennae and pale legs with dark mottling. Like the adults the nymphs have a rostrum with the stylets for feeding, three pairs of legs and a pair of antennae. Nymphs go from one stage to the next by moulting. During moulting, the skin on the dorsal side splits and the next stage pulls itself out of the old skin. Older nymphs have wing buds.

Walking and flying
The nymphs and adults have three pairs of legs and when disturbed they can jump (hop). The adults have two pairs of wings held over their body. The short-winged, brachypterous, adults cannot fly.

Feeding
Like other Hemiptera, the New Zealand spinach planthopper has piercing and sucking mouth parts. The long stylets, special shaped rods, are held in the rostrum. When it wishes to feed, the planthopper moves the tip of the rostrum to a suitable part of the plant. The stylets are then gradually pushed into the plant. The stylets form two tubes, one through which saliva is injected into the plant and a second through which plants juices are sucked up into the insect. The New Zealand spinach planthopper feeds on the phloem, one of the two systems for distributing nutrients in plants. The planthoppers excrete excess liquid as honeydew.

  • Adult female New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the short wings. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
    Adult female New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the short wings. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
  • Side view of an adult female New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the short wings. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
    Side view of an adult female New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the short wings. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of an adult female New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of an adult female New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult male New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the short wings. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
    Adult male New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the short wings. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of an adult male New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of an adult male New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
  • Nymph of a New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the wing buds. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
    Nymph of a New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the wing buds. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of a nymph of the New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of a nymph of the New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
  • Nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) on a leaf of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae): note the wing buds. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) on a leaf of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae): note the wing buds. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Recognition

Planthoppers require special procedures and taxonomic knowledge to identify specimens. However, the New Zealand spinach planthopper is the only species of planthopper found on New Zealand spinach. Only short-winged, brachypterous, adults are known, though fully winged adults are likely to exist. The adults are mid brown with pale and dark markings. The large nymphs have a pale background colour with dark lateral areas of the body and dark antennae.

  • Adult female New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the short wings. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
    Adult female New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the short wings. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
  • Side view of an adult female New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the short wings. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
    Side view of an adult female New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the short wings. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
  • Nymph of a New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the wing buds. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
    Nymph of a New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the wing buds. Image: Darren Snaith © Plant & Food Research
  • Nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) on a leaf of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae): note the wing buds. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) on a leaf of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae): note the wing buds. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Natural Enemies

The only natural enemy reported is a parasitoid, but New Zealand spinach planthoppers are likely to be preyed upon by other insects, spiders and birds.

Parasitoids
A wasp, Gonatopus alpinus (Gourlay, 1954) (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) is an ectoparasitoid of the NZ spinach planthopper. The wasp larva lives on the outside of the planthopper nymphs and possibly brachypterous (short-winged) adults. Its head is under the nymph’s wing buds and it sucks nutrients from the nymph. When the wasp larva is fully grown it leaves the dying planthopper nymph and spins a long thin cocoon in which it pupates. When the adult wasp has emerged from its pupa and its body had hardened, it chews an exit hole in the cocoon. The adult wasps may be wingless and have muscular legs.

Table: Natural enemies of Kiwi spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia) (Hemiptera: Delphacidae), from Plant-SyNZ database (20 April 2019). The reliability index shows the quality of evidence for the host association (0-10, 10=high quality).
Scientific NameCommon NameClassificationEnemy TypeReliability IndexBiostatus
Gonatopus alpinus (Gourlay, 1954)Delphacid parasitoid wasp (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Dryinidaeparasitoid7endemic
  • Nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) with a larva of the Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) attached to its back. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) with a larva of the Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) attached to its back. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Side view of a nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) with a larva of the Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) attached to its back. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Side view of a nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) with a larva of the Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) attached to its back. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Side view of a nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) with a larva of the Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) attached to its back. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Side view of a nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) with a larva of the Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) attached to its back. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Left, the skin of a nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) and right, a newly spun cocoon of a Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) on a stem of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Left, the skin of a nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) and right, a newly spun cocoon of a Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) on a stem of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • A newly spun cocoon of a Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) on a stem of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    A newly spun cocoon of a Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) on a stem of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • The skin of a nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) with the skin of a larva of the Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) attached to its back. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    The skin of a nymph of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) with the skin of a larva of the Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) attached to its back. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • A cocoon of a Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) with an exit hole made by the adult wasp. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    A cocoon of a Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) with an exit hole made by the adult wasp. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Side view of a winged adult male Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) whose larva was a parasite on a nymph of Kiwi spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Side view of a winged adult male Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) whose larva was a parasite on a nymph of Kiwi spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Winged adult male Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) whose larva was a parasite on a nymph of Kiwi spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Winged adult male Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) whose larva was a parasite on a nymph of Kiwi spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside side of a winged adult male Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) whose larva was a parasite on a nymph of Kiwi spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Underside side of a winged adult male Delphacid parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus alpinus, (Hymenoptera: Dryinidae) whose larva was a parasite on a nymph of Kiwi spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Host Plants

The only known host plant is New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma (Aizoaceae). However, it may also occur on New Zealand spinach, Tetragonia tetragonioides.

Adults and juveniles feed by inserting their stylets into the phloem of the plant. They excrete excess liquid as honeydew.

Table: Host plants of the Kiwi spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia) (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) from Plant-SyNZ database (20 April 2019). The reliability score shows the quality of evidence for the host association (1-10, 10=high).
Common Name(s)Scientific NameFamilyReliability IndexBiostatus
New Zealand climbing spinach, Kōkihi, Rengamutu, Rengarenga, Tūtae-ikamoanaTetragonia implexicoma (Miq.) Hook.f.Aizoaceae8indigenous, non-endemic
  • A plant of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma, (Aizoaceae), host plant of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia) (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    A plant of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma, (Aizoaceae), host plant of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia) (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Plants of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma, (Aizoaceae), host plant of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia) (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Plants of New Zealand climbing spinach, Tetragonia implexicoma, (Aizoaceae), host plant of New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia) (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
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Additional Information

Research Project
Delphacidae are in desperate need of revision. There are 18 named species. Since the last review in 1965, a lot of specimens have been collected that probably contains many undescribed species. Also the host plants of most described species are unknown.

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Information Sources

Fennah, R.G. 1965. Delphacidae from Australia and New Zealand. Homoptera: Fulgoroidea. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), Entomology 17: 1-59.

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Acknowledgements

The New Zealand Plant & Food Research Institute Limited (Plant & Food Research) for permission to use photographs.

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Other Images

  • Nymph of a New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the wing buds. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Nymph of a New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae): note the wing buds. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of a nymph of a New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of a nymph of a New Zealand spinach planthopper, Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia), (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Suggested Citation

Martin NA. 2019. New Zealand spinach planthopper - Delphacidae sp. (Tetragonia). Interesting Insects and other Invertebrates. New Zealand Arthropod Factsheet Series Number 174. http://nzacfactsheets.landcareresearch.co.nz/Index.html. Date Accessed. ISSN 1179-643X.

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