Caption: Common meadow spittlebug nymph (Philaenus spumarius). Spittlebugs (also know as froghoppers or cuckoo spit bugs) are small insects from the family Cercopidae. They are related to aphids and other true bugs (Hemipterans). These true bugs are named due to their excellent leaping ability as adults; some species can jump up to height of 28 inches. The nymphs (immature insect stage) produce a protective foamy substance resembling spit. Spittlebugs get their name from the globs of foamy spit they create along the stems of plants. The frothy spit serves a number of purposes. It hides the nymph from predators and parasites and it insulates against heat and cold, providing thermal control and also moisture control. The nymphs pierce plant stems and suck sap with their needle-like mouthparts (as seen in this image). They produce a frothy mixture by mixing air with fluid excretions, but not out their mouth. The nymphs feed face down on the stem, and as excess sap is excreted out the anus, it is mixed with a substance secreted by epidermal glands that enhances surface viscosity and stabilizes the foam to make it last longer. This mixture is forced out of the abdomen under pressure and as it is mixed with air, it forms bubbles. Some species can produce as many as 80 bubbles per minute. The spittlebug moves its abdomen up and down, and as the bubbles emerge, it reaches back with its legs and pulls the bubbles forward over its back to hide itself. A few species are serious agricultural pests.
Magnification*: x6
Type: SEM
Copyright 2008 Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.
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