Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the March 18, 2012 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

A tiny spot slowly worked its way across the underside of a Chaya leaf beside the hut. It was so small that with my cataract-dimmed eyes I couldn't see whether it was a spider or an insect, but at least I could take its picture using automatic focus. The spot is shown below:

Lacebug, genus CORYTHUCHA, Yucatan State, Mexico

What a frilly, strangely structured little creature! The head points toward the picture's top, right corner, but of what use could those white, waffle-like "ears" be flaring from the head's sides? Why don't the transparent wings fold neatly beneath harder parts as in many insects, instead of sticking out like airplane wings?

Volunteer identifier Bea in Canada is pretty sure that this is a Lacebug in the genus CORYTHUCHA, but it's not any of the common North American species. The wing venation is very close to that of Corythucha floridana, but that species lacks the black bars ours bears across its wings.

Lacebugs are members of the True Bug insect order, the Hemiptera, which have sucking mouthparts, undergo simple metamorphosis, and possess forewings with thickened bases.

Up North, Sycamore Lacebugs sometimes seriously damage Sycamore trees, and so their life cycles have been studied. In that species, one to several pairs of lacebugs may colonize a new leaf. The females may lay at least 284 eggs. Immature nymphs herd together at first but may move to new leaves upon reaching their fourth molt, or instar. Its life cycle is completed in only 43 to 45 days, and in the southern US several generations can occur per year.

As lacebugs feed on leaf undersides first they cause a white stippling and later the leaf turns yellowish or bronzed. Severe infestations may cause the tree to shed its leaves in late summer. Several years of infestation can stress a tree, even kill it, but usually the damage is more esthetic than dangerous, and it's not worth trying to control the insects.