I.D.-ing the spring bug infestation in Tianjin, China

This one’s for all the budding entomologists and/or homeschoolers out there.

If you’re the kind of person who stops to smell the flowers in Tianjin (yes, there are flowers, sure, sometimes they’re plastic, but let’s not be picky), then chances are good you’ve seen some of these lately:

Our two-year-old daughter loves to dig in the dirt and play with bugs. Recently (second half of May) the trees and bushes all over our district have been infested with these things, but I don’t know what they are or if they bite. They can jump and fly short distances, and they start to move away when they sense the camera but they’re not so fast that my daughter can’t accidentally squish them when she tries to “touch” them. Our neighbourhood grandpas told me a word that translates as “ladybug” (花大姐), but Google image search didn’t turn up anything resembling these. I’m not the first lǎowài to wonder what they are.

So I asked BugGuide.net, WhatsThatBug.com and the Natural History Museum. Some of these folks are quite the bug sleuths. It looks like these things are some kind of immature (nymph) form of one of the following, which I image searched in Google and Baidu and which may or may not all be the same thing — I wouldn’t know. Mouseover the Chinese for pronunciation and definition:

  • (google – yes; baidu – yes)
  • (google – yes; baidu – yes)
  • Lycorma (Google – yes; Baidu – yes)
  • Lycorma meliae(Google – yes; Baidu – yes)
  • Lycorma olivacea (google – yes; baidu – no)
  • Lycorma delictula (google – yes; baidu – yes)
  • Wax Cicada (google – yes; baidu – no)
  • Fulgorid Leafhopper (google – yes; baidu – no)

It would make sense if these will one day grow up to be cicadas, because cicadas infest Tianjin in the summer so loudly that you have to yell when you’re reading Harry Potter out loud to your wife under a tree.

If anyone wants to provide a definitive answer, be my guest!

But the bug experts didn’t answer the most important question: do they bite? So I took matters into my own hands. The next time we were out I grabbed one and shook it around to see if it would bite me, and OOOWWW! HOLY COW! … just kidding. Nothing happened, so now I let our daughter play with them. :)

Of course, this is not our first notable photogenic insect encounter in China:

P.S. – Curse you to the Nth generation, Great FireWall of China! Trying to do Google image searches when your proxy has been torpedoed (temporarily, I hope!) is as frustrating as it’s intended to be.

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