Spittlebugs

2 Aug


Spittlebugs (Cercopidae) on a plant stem.

Spittlebug nymphs on a plant stem.

Spittlebugs lay their eggs on plant stems.  The young spittlebugs excrete special fluids which they whip into a foamy mass around themselves (in the above image some of this foam has been wiped away).  This ‘spittle’ serves to protect the nymphs from predators as they develop, feeding on plant fluids.  They grow and molt several times (one of the cast off skins can be observed in the above picture), finally leaving the spittle mass after the last molting into their adult form.  Some predatory insects lurk by spittle masses, patiently awaiting the emergence of the insects.  Spittlebugs may live alone or in groups, and the nymphs sometimes leave their own spittle masses to find a new spot or join other spittle masses.

Spittlebugs (family Cercopidae) are in the hemipteran suborder Auchenorrhyncha, and thus are related to leafhoppers, treehoppers, and even cicadas.  The adult insects resemble broad and stout-bodied leafhoppers, and are sometimes called froghoppers due to their somewhat frog-like appearance.

Close up of spittle bugs.

Close up of spittlebugs.

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