If not for their fairly long dark legs and antennae, you might not recognize these little guys as insects. Kristi found several of them crawling on a trail in a dry mixed conifer forest. For reference, those are pine needle debris in the photos. They are indeed tiny. Ensign scales are oval-shaped and covered by protective waxy plates. Females also have an additional fused waxy structure called an ovisac that can extend far beyond the abdomen. The mothers carry their eggs in this structure before they hatch. Members of this family feed on many different plants, ranging from mosses to grasses and woody plants, and some even feed on fungi. According to Pacific Northwest Insects author Merrill A. Peterson, “Many ensign scales are seldom seen, because they live underground, feeding in roots or in ant nests.”

Size: A few millimeters (excluding wax)

Photos by: Kristi DuBois on 6/23/22 near Missoula, MT