What is a Tree Hopper?
Tree hoppers are members of the Membracidae family and a group of insects, related to the cicadas and the leaf hoppers. There are about 3,200 known species of a tree hopper.
The Brazilian tree hopper is among the weirdest looking insect. It seems like some helicopter insects from any other planet.
Tree hoppers mostly occur on trees, grasses, shrubs. The closest relatives of these species are leaf hopper, frog hopper, and plant-hopper. Whereas grasshopper is a different order of insects, but they are distantly related to tree hoppers as beetles.
Tree Hopper Bug:
Tree hoppers have a long, fascinating natural history due to their unusual appearance. The first thing one can notice about the species is the odd-antenna like a round limb on its head. They have a sharp, pointed, spine on their back that makes them look like a throne on a plant. Because of their shape, these bugs are called throne bugs. The average size of a tree hopper is between 2 mm to 2 cm.
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How to Identify a Tree Hopper From Other Insects?
Tree hoppers can be distinguished with their pronotum- a protective plate at the front of an insect’s thorax. Which is expanded up and over the body of an insect. In some species of insects, the Protonum simulates a thorn, while in others, it takes strange shapes. In other insects such as leaf hopper, cicadas, beetles, and bees, the Protonum bends from one side to another.
Tree Hopper Scientific Name:
The scientific name of the tree hopper is Membracidae.
Tree Hopper Habitat:
Tree hoppers habitat in the warmer regions of the world, especially in tropical forests. The species have found in all the continents except Antarctica. Only five known species have recognized from Europe.
What Does a Tree Hopper Eat?
Tree hoppers feed on sap by using their sharp mouths to cut the plants and suck up their fluids. As they eat, they spit sugary waste known as honeydew out of their rears. Ants, wasps, and other creatures stick around tree hoppers to drink the honeydew. In return, the ants protect the tree hoppers from their predators.
The species can suck on plant fluids for around a month; once they found the right spot, they do not move. The species feed day and night, and some can feed even more frequently because they feed on faster-growing plants. There is one group on fast-growing plants where the nymphs assemble and eat from the tip of a plant where the amount of nitrogen is highest. Once they use the tip of a plant, they disappear from that plant and finds a new location. The mouth-parts of a tree hopper have two sharp tubes. One tube injects the saliva and, from the other tube, acts as a sucking tube.
Can Tree Hoppers Fly?
The species can fly and jump when they get disturbed. Although the Protonum is large, they are also light-weighted and hollow, which allows them to operate with ease. Interestingly, their Protonum had wired with nerves and the hair-like structure known as setae, which can receive unknown provocation and also helps the bug to sense their surroundings.
Are Tree Hoppers Harmful?
Tree hoppers are not poisonous, but like a mosquito, if they feed on a plant that consists of a disease and then goes on feed on another plant, they can transmit disease. Though, the tree hoppers that have ant friends can be painful. You can get numerous stings on your hand.
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Tree Hopper Facts:
Some Interesting treehopper facts are outlined below:
- A female treehopper lays around 60 eggs on the surface of a limb, or she will insert it into the stem and sometimes cover it with a wax-like substance.
- A treehopper mother will sit on her eggs to protect them against predators. The mother will hide the eggs in a tree’s bark in a gash made by her.
- To protect the eggs from an intruder, the mother will wave her front limbs or kick at the attacker with the hind legs.
- The species communicate using vibrations; each species have a different vibration pattern.
- When threatened by predators, they make an alarming sound by swinging their bodies and producing vibrant chirps.
Brazilian Tree Hopper Life Cycle:
Brazilian tree hopper is a type of tree hopper that follows the basic life cycle of any insect.
- The eggs are laid singly or in masses in the bark of a tree or on the surface of a plant. If the eggs are put on the surface, the mother covers the eggs in a frothy substance.
- The babies emerge from the eggs after hatching.
- For the first five months, the nymph undergoes for the molting process. It is a process in insects where they shed their exoskeleton to make space for their growth.
- The nymphs repeat the process until they have fully grown.
Thorn Mimic Tree Hoppers:
A thorn bug is another type of tree hopper that have found throughout South and Central America, Mexico, and southern Florida. The species are distinct to its size, color, and structure. Tree hoppers mimic thorns to prevent from predators from spotting them.
Buffalo Tree Hopper:
The species are native to North America, but can now be seen throughout Southern Europe. The buffalo treehopper is bright green in color and has a triangular shape that helps them to camouflage. They can grow between 6 to 8 mm and have long and transparent wings. The mating period between buffalo treehopper takes place in summers. Where the male attracts the female with a song. The species have now become invasive in some parts of Europe.
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