Cicadas, leafhoppers, planthoppers, treehoppers, and spittlebugs
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White waxy secretion tail, planthopper nymph, Acanalonia bivittata
Hemiptera is presently divided into four suborders, after it was established that the families grouped together as "Homoptera" are not as closely related as had previously been thought. Auchenorrhyncha contains the cicadas, leafhoppers, treehoppers, planthoppers, and froghoppers. The suborder Sternorrhyncha contains aphids, whiteflies, scale, and mealybugs. Heteroptera, the least primitive of the hemipteroid assemblage, represents the true bugs.
Treehopper Ceresa taurina
Auchenorrhynchan wings are uniformly membranous, unlike the true bugs which have a leathery portion at the base of their wings. All Auchenorrhynchans feed exclusively on plants, but their diets vary tremendously as do their reproductive methods. Many species reproduce sexually, while others do so parthenogenically (without mating). Cicadas and leafhoppers mate sexually, and most females have large ovipositors which they use to deposit eggs into slits they cut in plant tissue. Aphids can reproduce without having sex, and are among the most destructive of all hemipterans – theoretically, one female aphid is capable of producing billions of offspring.
Many insects in this order exude waxy secretions which protect them from attack and make them impervious to water. Members of the order hymenoptera, the ants, have learned to "farm" aphids for their secretions — in turn, they protect the aphid colonies from attack by other predators and parasites. This symbiotic relationship is one of the most fascinating in nature.
17-year periodic cicada, Magicicada sp. brood XIII, 2007
Periodic cicadas are found only in eastern North America. There are seven species in the genus Magicicada — four with 13-year life cycles and three with 17-year cycles. The three 17-year species are northern in distribution, while the 13-year species are generally southern and midwestern. The periodic cicadas can be divided into three species groups (-decim, -cassini, and -decula) with slight ecological differences. Magicicada are so synchronized developmentally that they are nearly absent as adults in the 12 or 16 years between emergences. When they do emerge after their long juvenile periods, they do so in huge numbers, forming much denser aggregations than those achieved by most other cicadas.
The emergence of brood XIII in 2007 was quite an event here, near Chicago. There were places where the cicadas emerged by the millions and fouled roadways, sidewalks and car windshields, yet other areas just a mile away were devoid of the insects. The picture above was taken at the Morton Arboretum at Lisle, Illinois – a hotbed of the emergence. They we there by the hundreds of thousands and the roar was loud, strident, and unceasing. I can't wait for the next one!
"Sharpshooter" is one common name for the leafhopper subfamily Cicadellinae, which includes Paraulacizes, Oncometopia, Cuerna, Draeculacephala, Graphocephala and many other genera. They get this name from their habit of feeding on the watery sap of xylem tissue, which conducts moisture from the roots up to the leaves. Excess water droplets are forced out the tip of the abdomen with a popping noise.
1. Gene Kritsky et al., Observations on periodical cicadas (Brood X) (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Magicicada spp.)
2. Thomas Eisner, Maria Eisner, and Melody Siegler, Secret Weapons: Defenses of Insects (Belknap Press, 2005).
3. Gary A. Dunn, Insects of the Great Lakes Region (University of Michigan Press/Regional, 1996).
Order Hemiptera: True Bugs number almost 5,000 species in North America, and 40,000 worldwide. They have mouthparts formed into a beak, adapted for sucking plant juices or the liquefied insides of their animal prey.
Suborder Auchenorrhyncha – Cicadas & Planthoppers
Suborder Sternorrhyncha – Aphids, scales, mealybugs, jumping plant lice.