This week’s puzzler looks just like a bunch of spit… and if you touch it, it feels like spit too! But inside this frothy mass of tiny bubbles is a small insect called a spittlebug or froghopper. There are many different kinds of spittle bugs, but all of them go through incomplete metamorphosis–this means that baby spittle bugs, called nymphs, resemble adults, but lack wings. Nymphs start out as eggs and then grow through a series of molts until their final molt into adulthood. Spittlebug nymphs produce this frothy mass to hide from predators while they are feeding on the juice from plants.
Spittlebugs are relatives of aphids and cicadas, both of which also feed on the sap from plants. Despite this, spittlebugs don’t seriously harm established woody plants that they feed on, though their feeding can cause deformities in young plants.
Amazingly, spittlebugs can jump 100x their body length! This is how they got their other name–froghoppers. Spittlebugs can be yellowish, green, or rownish. Next time you see some spit on a plant, look inside it for the tiny creature hiding there.