Sunday, June 12, 2011

Froghopper

This is the shelter of a bug you will probably never see.  They are tiny and are usually only found by looking into their protective cover.

The froghoppers aka spittlebugs, are a variety of species in thesuperfamily Cercopoidea.  They are best known for their nymphs which produce a bubbly mass of froth to hide in.  This is actually plant sap which looks like spit, therefore the common name of spittlebugs or spit bugs.  They turn the sap into bubbles by pumping their bodies, then use their hind legs to cover themselves.  Unlike true spit, this froth comes from the other end.  No further comment needed.  

Frog Hopper making froth- Wikimedia
"The froth serves a number of purposes. It hides the nymph from the view of predators and parasites, it insulates against heat and cold, thus providing thermal control and also moisture control. Without the froth the bug would quickly dry up. The nymphs pierce plants and suck sap causing damage, and much of the excess filtered fluids go into the production of the froth, which has an acrid taste, deterring predators." (from wikipedia.org)

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 Froghoppers are so named for the frog-like facial features.  They are world class hoppers with some able to jump 28 inches vertically, higher per body weight than even fleas.  This is 100 times their length- think of you jumping 600 feet from a standing start!*

The miniscule instars look similar to the adults, almost impossible to find in the foam.  Like grasshoppers, their early instars are wingless copies of their parents, developing wings and fertility only in the 5th instar.  They are found on a wide variety of plants and do not usually cause significant damage. 

* See physorg.com for how they jump so far.

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  3. Great post! I like so much the insects 'cause they always make something to survive.

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