Mom and daughter discover new treehopper species

The bug was found after then 2 year-old Sylvie overwatered the garden!
treehopper Dr. Laura Sullivan-Beckers and her daughter Sylvie are born bug explorers! (Dr. Laura Sullivan-Beckers)

Have you ever done a Take Your Kids To Work Day with your parents? You know, when you go with your mom or dad to work and see what they do all day?

Well, for young Sylvie Sullivan-Beckers, that was kind of everyday one summer with her mom, Laura. Except "work" was their backyard. And her mother's job? Entomologist. (That's a bug biologist!)

And back in 2016, Sylvie did more than just learn about what mommy did as a job. Together, they discovered a brand new bug! A treehopper, now forever known as Hebetica sylviae. How did this happen?

A little trained expertise, a little youthful enthusiam ... and way too much water.

Is this enough?

Dr. Laura Sullivan-Beckers was taking a summer off from her job as a professor at Murray State University in Kentucky to be with her young daughter. This included watering the garden and planting seeds with Sylvie.

But as a bug scientist, Laura's watchful eyes weren't taking a vacation. Good thing, too. After planting some wildflower seeds, she let her daughter water them. Sylvie was only two at the time, and she added, well, a lot of water. So much that the soil became flooded.

And up floated a bunch of bright green bugs.

They're treehoppers!

Meet Hebetica sylviae, a new species of treehopper. (Murray State University)

Laura noticed that they were treehoppers. She had studied them before. But she didn't recognize this species. So she and Sylvie spent the next two months studying the flower bed — taking samples, photos, and videos, and recording as much data as possible.

In the end, they sent the specimens they collected to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And after a three year wait, it was confirmed—they had discovered a new treehopper species!

Sylvie's bug

The somewhat sad part of this tale is that the treehoppers they found had been killed and brought underground by wasps. Hey, that's nature!

The wasps were stinging and then burying the treehoppers as food for their larvae. In the video below, you can see a wasp carrying one of the bugs as it gets ready to bury it.

And where exactly do H. sylviae live when they're, well, alive? Sounds like that could be a new summer research project for Sylvie and her mom!

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  1. Well, no, I have never done a “Take Your Kids To Work Day” with my parents, but, yes, it’s interesting to learn something new ❗

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