Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Frogs, snakes, cuckoos, or bugs?

I've been monitoring the sprig of rosebush from last Friday, looking for changes in the orange casing. There's not much to report so far; a slight thickening of the dusty spots is about it.

However, I've found something else of interest in those three leaves.

It's been a hectic week, so I propped the twig in an eggcup full of water, to be examined later. I was gathering my purse and keys to dash off, when I happened to glance back and see a green bug on one of the leaves. In a great rush, I took a photo:

Then I popped the twig, eggcup, critter, and all, into a lidded container, and dashed out the door, only a few minutes late.

Back home on Saturday afternoon, I examined my find more closely. By now, the bug had built himself a safe haven:

A mass of bubbles, home to a spit bug (or spittle bug). The froth is sometimes called "snake spit" or "cuckoo spit". (I've heard that snakes do spit, so do frogs, but do cuckoos?) I brushed some of the bubbles off, gently.

It was some kind of hopper, still in the nymph stage. The wings are mere yellow stubs. I like those cute antennae, too; so short they look more like whiskers.

I was gone most of the day Sunday, and didn't do more than glance at the container through the lid, see that the rust was still orange, and rush off again.

Yesterday morning (Monday), the hopper was on the inside of the lid. And he was no longer green.

In the spot where he had been resting, only the molted exoskeleton remained, with a few popped bubbles.

He's a hopper. Still wet behind the ears, and a bit sluggish. But while I was looking at him, he suddenly leapt into the air, out of the container, and onto a file folder about a foot away.

I photographed him, slapped a cup over him and maneuvered him back into the container. He's there now, with the lid firmly snapped on.

And I found his mates on BugGuide; froghoppers. Philaenus spumaria, the meadow spittlebug. They're from the superfamily Cicadoidea, the cicadas and their kin. The meadow spittlebug is one of the few greenish nymphs found in BC. Their adult colouring is variable, anything from brown to black to patterned to plain to striped. And National Geographic calls them the "World's Greatest Leaper": an adult froghopper can jump up to 70 cm. high. That's over 2 feet, for a tiny bug, around 1 cm long.

I checked him out again tonight. He's dried out, and is quite active. His two "whiskers" have turned black, and have a little knob at the bottom. Charming.



  1. as a kid in southern ontario, searching for spit beetles in the grassy fields behind our home was a favourite summer time activity ... thanks for bringing back some good memories ...

  2. Ah ... memories of being a kid roaming the fields! We had no spit bugs, but we went a-frogging. And garter snake hunting. Good times! Thanks for reminding me!


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