Psylla frodobagginsi

The Hobbit psyllid lives exclusively on kowhai and is only one of the many endemic psyllids living in New Zealand. Psyllids have a bad reputation, which is due to only a few species (of over more than 4000 psyllid species) that are actually considered pests.

Psylla frodobagginsi is the smaller of two endemic NZ psyllids (the other being Psylla apicalis) that live on kowhai plants. For almost 90 years, these two species were thought to be the same insect, but a genetic study confirmed they are distinct. Psylla frodobagginsi can be identified by its smaller dimension, hence the common name “Hobbit psyllid”, and by the uniform pattern on its wings.

Fun fact: psyllids are not great fliers, but they tend to jump away when disturbed. This is why they are also known as jumping plant lice. Of course, jumping is hard, and psyllids only do a couple of good jumps before they rest to recover energies. That’s the best time to observe them and take photos! When kowhai trees are in flower, you can scroll them on your hand you almost certainly will be covered in psyllids. But can you distinguish the hobbit psyllid from its sister species?

Check these links for more info on the Hobbit Psyllid in NZ

Wikipedia: Information on the Hobbit Psyllid

The Guardian: Naming of the Hobbit Psyllid


Click on the image to visit the official observation. image © Grey Smith image @ Stephen Thorpe