Genus Copicerus Swartz, 1802

[Back to Higher classification of Delphacidae]
[Back to Tribe Asiracini]

Family Delphacidae Leach 1815

Subfamily Asiracinae Motschulsky, 1863: 108.

Tribe Asiracini Motschulsky, 1863

Genus Copicerus Swartz, 1802

Distribution: New World, widespread but especially tropical.

= Jerala Walker, 1858: 85 (type species Jerala singula Walker, 1858: 85); syn. by Stål, 1862: 488.
= Holotus Guerin-Meneville, 1856: 180 (type species Holotus thoracicus Guerin-Meneville, 1856: 180); syn. by Stål, 1866: 175.

Type species (in original combination): Copicerus irroratus Swartz, 1802.

Recognized species

There are four species and one subspecies currently placed in this genus.

Copicerus insignicornis (Lethierry, 1890) – Venezuela
= Asiraca insignicomis Lethierry, 1890.
= Copicerus insignicornis (Lethierry, 1890); comb. by Crawford, 1914: 565.
Copicerus irroratus Swartz, 1802 – USA: FL, GA, IL, MS, MO, NY, OH, TX; Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba; Ecuador, Guatemala, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela.
= Jerala singula Walker, 1858; syn. by. Stål, 1862: 488.
Copicerus irroratus thoracicus (Guerin-Meneville, 1856) – Cuba, Jamaica
= Holotus thoracicus Guerin-Meneville, 1856[: 180]
= Copicerus thoracicus (Guerin-Meneville, 1856); new comb. by Johnson and Fox 1892: 60.
= Copicerus irroratus thoracicus (Guerin-Meneville, 1856); new comb. by Crawford, 1914: 564.
Copicerus obscurus (Guerin-Meneville, 1856) – Brazil
= Holotus obscurus Guerin-Meneville, 1856: 181 (see also Guerin-Meneville 1857: 430).
= Copicerus obscurus (Guerin-Meneville, 1856); comb. by Muir, 1926: 7.
Copicerus swartzi Stal, 1857 – Brazil

Plant associations

Unknown, but probably dicots.

Palmer and Pullen (1995) reported C. irrorata from Lantana in the Yucatan in Mexico.  Llano et al. 2016 recorded this species from Sechium edule (Jacq.) Swartz, 1800 (Cucurbitales: Cucurbitaceae). (genus not listed in Wilson et al. 1994)

Economic Importance

Limited. C. insignicornis, C. obscurus and C. swartzi are unknown, except for type material.  Copicerus irroratus is only rarely found in numbers (usually they are found one, or few, at a time).


Copicerus is a highly distinctive genus among the New World fauna (possibly confused for the Old World genus Asiraca).  It is the only New World genus with long, flattened antennae and a spine-like calcar.  Asche, 1985 illustrated the genitalia assumed to be of Copicerus irroratus from Cuba.

Taxonomic Key to Copicerus Species (revised from Llano et al. 2016; key is preliminary and assumes color patterns reflect species differences, which has not yet been demonstrated; primary types were examined).

1. — Frons with 2 black transverse bands (or large dark patches), contrasted with tan or pale brown at frontoclypeal suture and between black bands (at lower margin of compound eye); mesothorax tan medially, dark brown laterally … Copicerus swartzi Stål

1′.— Frons variously brown speckled or dark dorsally and paler ventrally; mesothorax varied …2

2. — Prothorax often speckled brown and slightly to distinctly darker laterally; mesothorax bicolored, pale medially, darker laterally; frons variously speckled (sparsely to densely) … C. irroratus Swartz

2′.— Pro- and mesothorax uniformly colored (except mesoscutellum may be paler); frons uniformly colored or speckled … 3

3. — Frons uniformly colored; scutellum of mesothorax pale … C. obscurus (Guérin-Méneville)

3′.— Frons sparsely speckled dorsally, uniformly pale below level of compound eyes … C. insignicornis Lethierry

Here are images of Copicerus irroratus from Mexico.  The image of the nymph is a specimen from Cuba (photo taken by Jacek Szwedo from the MIZ PAN collection)

Nymph of Copicerus irroratus (from Cuba); photo by Jacek Szwedo

Copicerus irroratus male genitalia from Asche (1985)

Live images – Here are some images of live Copicerus from Nicaragua, courtesy of Stephen Cresswell (

Below from BOLD (Canadian National Museum; CC BY-NC-SA CNC/BIO Photography Group 2012)

Online resources
Discover Life
American Insects
Gernot Kunz gallary.
Arizona State (Flickr)

Molecular resources

There are data for Copicerus sp. and Copicerus irroratus on Genbank. On BOLD there are data (lots) for several species (some tentatively identified).

Selected references

Asche, M. 1985. Zur Phylogenie der Delphacidae Leach, 1815 (Homoptera: Cicadina: Fulgoromorpha). Marburger Entomologische Publikationen 2(1): 1-398 AND 2(2): 399-910.

Barringer, L. E. and C. R. Bartlett. 2011. A review of New World Asiracinae (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha: Delphacidae) with five new taxa. Cicadina 12: 7-39.

Bartlett, C. R., L. B. O’Brien and S. W. Wilson. 2014. A review of the planthoppers (Hemiptera: Fulgoroidea) of the United States. Memoirs of the American Entomological Society 50: 1-287.

Crawford, D. L. 1914a. A contribution toward a monograph of the homopterous insects of the family Delphacidae of North and South America. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 46: 557-640, plus 6 plates.  [Copicerus thoracicus to subspecies of C. irroratus]

De Jong, G. 2015. A new northern distribution record and report of the planthopper Copicerus irroratus Swartz (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) from New York. Entomological News 124(5): 373-374.

Emeljanov, A. F. 1996. On the question of the classification and phylogeny of the Delphacidae (Homoptera, Cicadina), with reference to larval characters. Entomological Review 75(9):134-150. [Translated from Russian in Entomologicheskoe Obozrenie 74: 780-794.]

Fowler, W. E. 1905a. Order Rhynchota. Suborder Hemiptera-Homoptera (Continued). Biologia Centrali-Americana; or contributions to the knowledge of the fauna and flora of Mexico and Central America 1: 125-139. [Copicerus = Holotus]

Guerin-Meneville, F. E. 1856a. Segunda seccion. Homopteros. In: de la Sagra, R. Historia fisica, politica y natural de la Isla de Cuba. Crustaceos, aragnides, e insectos. Paris, vol. 7. Pp.1-868 [see 178-182].

Johnson, C. W. and W. J. Fox. 1892a. List of Hemiptera collected in Jamaica, W. I. Entomological News 3:59-60.

Leach, W. E. 1815a. Entomology. The Edinburg encyclopedia; conducted by David Brewster 9: 57-172. (family Delphacidae page 125).

Lethierry, L. F. 1890. Voyage de M. E. Simon au Venezuela (decembre 1887-avril 1888), 9e. memoire Hemipteres Homopteres. Annales de la Societe Entomologique de France (6)10: 147-160. [Holotus with 2 species described; to Copicerus by Fowler 1905]

Llano, C. A., C. R. Bartlett and G. Guevara. 2016. First record of the subfamily Asiracinae and Copicerus irroratus (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha: Delphacidae) in Colombia. Florida Entomologist 99(1): 120-122.

De Motschulsky, V. I. 1863. Essai d’un catalogue des insectes de l’ile de Ceylan. Bulletin de la Société Impériale des Naturalistes de Moscou 36: 1-153. (p. 108).

Muir, F. A. G. 1926. Contributions to our knowledge of South American Fulgoroidea (Homoptera). Part I. The family Delphacidae. Bulletin. Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association Experiment Station. Division of Entomology 18: 1-51.

Palmer, W. A. and K. R. Pullen. 1995. The phytophagous arthropods associated with Lantana camara, L. hirsuta, L. urticifolia, and L. urticoides (Verbenaceae) in North America. Biological Control 5: 54-72.

Stål, C. 1857a. Ny art af Copicerus (Swartz). Ofversigt af Kongliga Svenska Vetenskaps-Akademiens Forhandlingar 14: 53.

Stål, C. 1857b. Description du genre Copicerus Swartz. Annales de la Societe Entomologique de France (3) 5:3 37-339.

Stål, C. 1862b. Synonymiska och systematiska anteckningar öfver Hemiptera. Öfversigt af Kongliga   Svenska Vetenskaps-Akademiens Förhandlingar 19: 479-504. [Copicerus irroratus Swartz = Jerala singula Walker]

Stål, C. 1866. Hemiptera Homoptera Latr. Hemiptera Africana 4: 1-276.

Swartz, O. 1802a. Copicerus, et nytt slagte bland insecterne fran Westindien. Nya Handlingar. Kongliga Svenska Vetenskaps-Akademiens. 23:177-183.

Walker, F. 1858b. Supplement. List of the specimens of Homopterous Insects in the collection of the British Museum 1858: 1-307. [Jerala singula Walker, 1958 described]

Wilson, S. W., C. Mitter, R. F. Denno and M. R. Wilson. 1994. Evolutionary patterns of host plant use by delphacid planthoppers and their relatives. Pp. 7-45 & Appendix. In: R. F. Denno and T. J. Perfect, (eds.). Planthoppers: Their Ecology and Management. Chapman and Hall, New York.

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