Have you ever walked along the trail or in your own garden and noticed a big glob of spit on a plant? Well, it wasn’t left by a human; it was left by a baby insect.
Spittlebugs live in their little bubbles until they reach adulthood and become froghoppers. Froghoppers are a type of insect that, you guessed it, hop like frogs! These insects are amazing, from baby to adult. Most of us have probably walked on by them without even noticing they are there.
Home Spit Home
A female froghopper will lay her eggs in hidden places on a plant, such as along the stem or under a leaf. In mid-summer, these eggs hatch into spittlebug nymphs. These nymphs suck the watery nutrients from the plant’s xylem, which is the tissue in plants that moves water and nutrients up from the roots.
To get all the nutrients they need from this water, they have to drink tons of it. What happens when you drink a lot of water? The same thing happens to the spittlebug. They have to go to the bathroom! As they urinate, they make these spit-like bubbles that cover their body, the stem and onward, making a big frothy glob on the plant. These bubbles serve as protective homes for the spittlebugs, hiding them from wasps and spiders who might eat them.
Pop Pop Is Anyone Home?
If you are careful, you can find a spittlebug to investigate. Get outside to find one of these bubble homes and knock on their door. Gently move some of the bubbles out the of way, and you will find a little green or yellow nymph with big, red eyes. Make sure when you are done looking you put it back in its bubbles!
Time to Hop
We have dozens of species of spittlebugs, but the most common is called the meadow spittlebug. Come summer, spittlebugs molt their skin and get bigger and bigger. Soon they find one big bubble and transform into their final stage, an adult froghopper.
They look like tiny frogs with big, black legs ready to hop. You may have heard of their cousin, the leafhopper. Leafhoppers are shaped more like skinny leaves versus wider frogs. The froghopper can jump about 27 inches high. To us giant humans that doesn’t seem that impressive. However, if you think about it in relation to their size, it is amazing. It is the same as a 6-foot-tall person jumping 600 feet straight up in the air! Superman might be able to achieve that, but certainly not the rest of us.
Take a Closer Look
Want to see a spittlebug up close before heading outdoors? Check out this video to see scientists explore the life of a spittlebug.
After watching, check out your own back yard to see if you have any spittlebug neighbors. Don’t worry if it happens to be on your favorite plant. They will not hurt it!
If you can’t find any in your yard, check out a preserve near you. Start in a prairie habitat, looking along the stems and under the leaves.
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