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Bug of the Week: Leafhoppers

Our insect today is small (about 1/8 inch) and active, so you might not spot it easily.

It is a leafhopper in the family Cicadellidae, of the Order Hemiptera. Some of its insect relatives include cicadas and aphids.

As you might guess, it is called a leafhopper because it has enlarged hind legs for jumping, although some are more likely to scuttle to the other side of the leaf or stem than to jump. The adults also have wings and can fly.

Leafhoppers come in a rainbow of colors.

In this photograph by Benimoto at Wikimedia, you can see characteristic pyramid-like head, and the triangle in the middle of its back. Can you see the spines on the hind leg? Two rows of spines is a characteristic of leafhoppers.

What a big eye! This type of leafhopper is commonly called a sharpshooter. If it spots something approaching, it quickly scoots to the other side of the stem.

Where do leafhoppers come from? Leafhoppers go through incomplete metamorphosis.

The adult leafhoppers lay eggs on plants. This is a cluster of sharpshooter egg cases on a leaf.

Looks like these have hatched.

The young leafhoppers are called nymphs. They lack wings, but the older ones have wing buds.

Often you will see the nymphs and adults together on a plant.

Leafhoppers use their sucking mouthparts to suck juices from plants.

In this video you can see leafhoppers feeding and eliminating wastes, in the form of excess fluids, at the same time.

As I mentioned above, leafhoppers are related to cicadas. Not that long ago scientists discovered that male leafhoppers have similar structures, called tymbals, that cicadas use to sing. After further tests, it turns out male leafhoppers sing to attract the females, too, but the sound is too high a frequency for us to hear.

Tiny singing leafhoppers? Now that is cool!

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