Have you ever noticed tiny clusters of bubbles on your plants and wondered how they got there? No, it wasn’t Tinker Bell playing with a bubble gun.
It is the handiwork of the Spittlebug, the nymph form of a Froghopper. Spittlebugs are slow moving insects that feed on watery tree sap. While they feast, air from their abdomen is mixed in with urine and a sticky substance to form clusters of bubbles they secrete through their anus. In the course of a day, the amount of urine they produce is 150 to 280 times their own body weight. The bitter tasting foam is used for temperature control, keeps the nymph from drying out and also acts as a great shield from predators.
The nymphs go through five stages and mature into an adult in five to eight weeks. When they are ready to transform into an adult, they will pop all the bubbles to form one giant bubble and begin the transformation process inside their own secretion.
Adult Froghoppers, like their nymph self, also feed on plant sap but without the bubbly mess. After their metamorphosis, they emerge with two pairs of wings and powerful hind legs. Not only do they look like a frog, they can also leap high and far when threatened. Froghoppers can jump as high as 27 inches, reacting so quickly we couldn't even capture it on film in slow motion. Their front set of wings wrap around their body like a tent and the other set wrap around the rear to create an illusion of a second head in the back. This tactic is used to confuse the predator and offer them a better chance of escape.
Watch our video below to see this living breathing tiny bubble machine at work .