Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I noticed the first spittlebugs of the season yesterday when I was checking bluebird nest boxes over on Kings Highway. I recognized the "spit," but I didn't know anything about the animal that made it.
Here's what I discovered:
The familiar "spit" is created by the nymphs of the Froghopper Bug (Cercopidae) of which there are more than 20,000 species world-wide. It's been reported that the name "froghopper" comes from their resemblance to a frog. I took a close look at a couple of nymphs in the spittle, but didn't see the "frog face." (I'll have to find an adult to see if they're the source of the frog-like reference).
The name might also have something to do with this bug's jumping prowess. A neurobiologist in England recently discovered that the froghopper bug accelerates from the ground with a force of 400 times greater than gravity, making it the world's greatest leaper.
But back to the spittle. The bubble froth only looks like spit - it's actually secreted from the other end.
So... what does crawling around in spit do for them?
The wingless nymphs hide in it. (Ants are their major predator). The fluid may also keep them hydrated and insulated while they feed on plant sap.
But like tent caterpillars, it's their "look" that gets some people worried. They are, however, harmless to humans and don't cause any major damage to plants. If you find them on your strawberries, flowers and trees - resist the temptation to pull out the pesticides. If you feel you have to do something - just pull out the hose and spray them away.
Posted by hvhughes at 10:32 PM