Image: Plant hopper
Plant hopper, line drawing. Plant hoppers, along with cicadas, belong to the Order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha.
- Andrew Howells
- © Australian Museum
What do plant hoppers and cicadas look like?
- 4 mm - 60 mm in length.
- Wingspan up to 140 mm.
- Generally widest at wing attachment (wide shoulders), abdomen tapered or column-like.
- Pronotum (segment behind head) maybe enlarged or modified.
- Head held rigid against pronotum hence little movement.
- Appears hard.
- Bristle-like, first segment is swollen and varies in length between species.
- Usually very small but can be as long as the body.
- Large and well separated.
- Often two or three ocelli (small simple lenses) between the eyes.
- For piercing and sucking, do not have visible palps (mouthparts that look like a chain of beads).
- A sharply pointed tube comes from the back of the head, thus the tube appears to originate from between the front legs; sometimes difficult to see.
- Two pairs.
- Both pairs membranous and clear or partially see-through.
- Both have a moderate to numerous cross-veins that form square to rectangular cells.
- Hindwing shorter and wider than forewing.
- At rest wings held tent-like over body.
- Six legs slender with many spines.
- Hindleg of hoppers usually modified for jumping.
- Cerci (tails) absent.
- Some fulgoroid leafhoppers have long tail filaments that are made from a waxy substance (particularly nymphs). These sometimes look like antennae and cause observers to think the abdomen tip is the head of the insect.
Where are cicadas and hoppers found?
- On plants and bark of trees.
What do cicadas and hoppers do?
- They are solitary or live in groups.
- When disturbed they usually jump (hoppers only), fly away or move out of the line of sight; some may also make noise.
- They are generally strong fliers some capable of covering large distances.
- Primarily feed on sap.
- Cicadas are sound producers.
- Many cicadas and hoppers are experts of camouflage. They may use colouration and patterning to blend in with their surroundings.
- Many hoppers have partnerships with ants where the hopper offers honeydew (a sugary excretion) to the ant and in return the ants provide protection.
- They are active day or night.
What looks similar?
- Moths can be confused with some leafhoppers in the families Flatidae and Ricaniidae due to their flight, wing pigment and tubular mouthparts. However moths have overlapping scales on at least the body, and their mouthparts are nearly always coiled or at least strongly curved in live and dead specimens. Leafhoppers lack scales and have straight tubular mouthparts.
- Beetles can be confused with some leafhoppers that have the wings covered by the rearward extension pronotum (segment behind head) for example Treehoppers (Family Membracidae). The functional wings are still visible under this extension.