National Insect Week returns in 2020
True bugsTrue bugs have mouthparts that are specialized for piercing and sucking: most feed on plant juices though some are predators. They include plant-bugs, bed-bugs, water-boatmen, aphids, leafhoppers, froghoppers, and (in warmer climates) cicadas.
The adult Common Froghopper is not often seen by the casual observer. Although it is 6 mm long, it can move so quickly when disturbed that it seems just to ‘disappear.’ It is also not distinctively coloured: indeed, its pattern of coloration is very variable, often being various shades of mottled pale and dark brown, but also ranging from pure sandy brown to dull black. However, the nymph of the Common Froghopper is well-known for the distinctive white frothy ‘cuckoo-spit’ it produces – and hides within – on the stems of its food plants.
The Common Froghopper is found in a variety of habitats, but it is perhaps most abundant on waste ground and road-side verges where its weedy herbaceous food plants, such as thistles and mugwort, are often plentiful. Within the ‘cuckoo-spit’, the nymph of this species feeds by sucking sap from the food plant.
The ‘cuckoo spit’ of the nymphs can be seen in May and June. The adult insects are first seen in late June, and reach maximum numbers in July, but can still be found in late September and October.
When disturbed, the adults can jump as high as 70 cm with enormous force using their powerful back legs. Recent research has shown that within a millisecond they can accelerate to over 14 km/h! Very few potential predators could catch the Common Froghopper once it has jumped.
This species is widespread and common in the British Isles and across many parts of neighbouring continental Europe.
There are lots of contenders here – possibly the pretty red and blue rove beetle Paederus – very, very tiny amounts of its poison have been used to cure chronic ulceration in people. Ladybirds are pretty poisonous (and pretty) and can bleed foul-tasting poisonous brightly coloured blood from their knees.