Crazy Eyes

Spissistilus festinus | Stoneville, Mississippi

Spissistilus festinus (three-cornered alfalfa hopper) is one of the few truly economic pests in the otherwise bizarre and innocuous family Membracidae (treehoppers).  Its common name alludes to one of the crops it affects, but my encounters with this species are most often in soybean (I am, after all, a soybean entomologist).  Damage in this crop is caused by both adults and nymphs, whose piercing/sucking mouthparts cause girdling and breakage of the stem—often just a few inches above the soil.  This individual was seen during my travels last week in a soybean field in Stoneville, Mississippi, where numbers throughout the season were especially high this year.  Although I have seen innumerable S. festinus adults, I have never noticed their crazy, zig-zag patterned red and white eyes until I managed this closeup face shot (click on photo for best view).

This slightly cropped photo was taken with a 100mm macro lens and full extension tube set, resulting in slightly more than 2X magnification.  One of the lessons I took from was the need to pay more attention to background and value contrast.  By placing the subject a few inches in front of the dark green soybean foliage I was able to achieve a much more pleasing background than the typical black background one gets with full flash photos at high magnification.  Although both the subject and the background are green, there is still sufficient difference in shade to create contrast between them.  Light-green is one of the more difficult colors to work with when full flash is used with high shutter speeds and small apertures to maximize crispness and detail (in this case, 1/250 sec and f/16).  However, increasing ISO to 400 and lowering flash exposure compensation to -2/3 can reduce the amount of flash needed to illuminate the subject with such settings, making it easier to achieve a properly exposed and true-colored subject.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
This entry was posted in Hemiptera, Membracidae and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

70 Responses to Crazy Eyes

  1. biobabbler says:

    wow. just a GREAT photo, interesting stuff, and yes, TRIPPY eyes. Nice. Plus, who can resist a post titled “crazy eyes.” Not me. =) I’m heading toward ND, so perhaps I’ll run around and see if I can find any of these guys.

  2. Wow, that’s pretty neat…I love how you can see the textures!

  3. SO aptly names — those truly are some crazy eyes!


  4. drwebs says:

    he’s like, hey, hows it going? Very cool!

  5. conniewalden says:

    Very detailed photo of one of God’s unique creatures. Why look to the stars for creatures of a third kind when there so many still unseen by man right here on earth. Connie

  6. Dounia says:

    Great picture of a very interesting looking creature…Thanks for sharing and congrats on freshly pressed!

  7. I’m glad this little tree hopper is looking out for my ecosystems!

  8. Wow, that’s an amazing picture.

  9. I love that photo! I’ve also had trouble capturing light green so I appreciate the camera tips. I find that little guy rather endearing and I was disappointed to learn that they are destructive pests. Interesting post nonetheless.

  10. says:

    awesome photo and post!


  11. k8edid says:

    Those are some crazy zig-zag eyes. Beautiful.

  12. thought-creator says:

    This is an amazing post and picture! I can’t believe it! Come read my blog at I just like to write poetry, short stories, and articles, and would love feedback from such an amazing blogger!

  13. PrettyGee says:

    This is amazingly shot! Great article.

  14. societyred says:

    Thank you! Great photo and dialogue.

  15. Just came across ur blog and must say you have captured the bug pretty well in your blog and picture 🙂
    well i write mostly on motivation & hr & traveling

  16. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. Great photo! Entomology is one of our passions too…maybe you would like to see:

    or for insect photography

    We hope you like them!

  17. metan says:

    Great photo, I love searching out and taking photos of the critters that live in my garden!

  18. cool photo! love the sharpness of the picture!! 😀

  19. Fikomsi says:

    i like this…
    cool photo!

  20. Nature is amazing! It’s like he/she is looking right at me or whoever is to the left and right:)

  21. So cool! Nature is truly amazing!

  22. Great photo. I found a tree hopper nymph on my grapes this summer and spent several hours trying to ID it. The nymphs are really unique in appearance!

  23. Nicole says:

    That’s insane. Nature is a wonderful thing.

  24. joannathibau says:

    So crazy…lol! 🙂

  25. Awesome close-up and interesting info, thanks a lot for this post 🙂

  26. the sight of it makes the hair on my neck stand up.

  27. Love the nature facts!
    Just amazing!
    Keep it up!

    for more nature facts visit

  28. gaycarboys says:

    Great shot. I need to learn what the manual settings on my click and point camera actually do!

  29. jeninesilos says:

    I think its very cute – its eyes are cute, too. Lovely natural color.

  30. Woah… Those are some crazy eyes! 

  31. roberta06 says:

    greeeeeeeeeat!! 😀

  32. zachynyoga says:

    Hey Ted, congrats on the fresh press!!!

  33. Harry says:

    They look cute! Love photos like this, keep it up!

  34. Gary Lum says:

    Awesome photography

  35. yisha says:

    , like it much!

  36. Rocio says:

    The picture is wonderful and the Spissistilus festinus is amazing, it´s cover is like brilliant and the color is beautiful. The only bad thing is that this insect is a pests.
    The form of take this picture is very good.

  37. Gail says:

    Very impressive photography! I love his eyes as well as his green sparkled body. Entomology must be a fascinating field.

  38. rebecca says:

    o surpriza neasteptata.

  39. Pingback: Macrophotography entomology blog | Gary Lum's Blog and website

  40. blossom says:

    look at the eyes, so fantastic. i like it this eyes.. so cute

  41. leadinglight says:

    Those eyes are intense – but gee, I feel like I should cut down on my intake of soy crisps.

  42. noakesy says:

    Fantastic photo!

  43. What an amazing photo!!

    Those eyes are crazy. And creepy. But super cool… 🙂

  44. writingbyart says:

    That picture sends shivers down my spine but it is awesome, intense. Having a unique job, you must love it!

  45. muymia says:


  46. wow love the photos, its very nice. 🙂

  47. Eva McCane says:

    crazy eyes is right! nice shot!

  48. Very interesting eyes indeed 🙂
    What may be the function of this kind of eyepattern? I can not really imagine that this may be a kind of camouflage….

  49. Bhushan Shirgaonkar says:

    Cool photo of an insect

  50. skn06 says:

    This is a truly awesome photo

  51. qcctest1 says:


  52. nextdoorwriter says:

    Though I am much aware of tropical species from the order Hemiptera, i am quite fascinated with this treehopper. The picture really looks fantastic though the effect that this insect causes is not good (e.g. decrease in plant yield etc.)I love your blog by the way! 🙂 I’m an entomophile too.

  53. Julio Eiffelt R R says:

    Does the pest as virus vector? i never seen this pest before in Indonesia. not on soybean or rather. Great Post.

  54. really enjoyed your wordpress!

  55. Fox@n says:

    WOAH what a cool picture. Great Job .

  56. Interesting post. Learnt a lot! Thanks!

  57. Pingback: Tree Hoppers on CBC


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