Weekly Series
Nature Weekly
Short Notes on Nature Singapore

27 December 2015 | Spittlebugs | Froghoppers | Cercopoidea | Machaerotidae |

photo The froghoppers belong to the superfamily Cercopoidea. This superfamily is further divided into 5 families, namely Aphrophoridae, Cercopidae, Clastopteridae, Epipygidae and Machaerotidae. This group of insect is best known for the nymph stage, which produces a cover of saliva-like foam. Hence, they are also known commonly as spittlebugs. However, one of the family in the group, Machaerotidae, is known as the tube spittlebugs because the nymphs live in calcareous tubes instead of the saliva-like foam.

photo photo For quite a while, I had named this brownish-white spittlebug as Philaenus leucophthalmus (Meadow Spittlebug). I received a note this week from Les Day that Meadow Spittlebug is not supposed to inhabit this region. Though my spittlebug looked similar to Meadow Spittlebug, it is likely to be another species. I made another attempt to search for its identity but nothing came near. To most people, spittlebug is not likely to be a very interesting insect. It is therefore not surprising that there are barely any information or report on its status in Singapore.

photo The COOL website on Cercopoidea listed 16 taxa located in Singapore, with 4 species of Aphrophoridae and 12 species of Cercopidae. Though the names were listed, they did not lead me to any pictures that looked like my brownish-white spittlebug.

Another piece of information that Les Day shared was on one of my unknown treehopper picture. Apparently, that should not be a treehopper but should instead be a tube spittlebug. The unique spine on its back had led me to group it under the treehopper. The clue that it was indeed a tube spittlebug was the origin of the spine. Treehopper's spine typically originated from the pronotum while the spine for tube spitterbug originated from the scutellum.

photo photo With this topic fresh on my mind, I went to a nearby park on Christmas day with the aim to look out for spittlebug. Interestingly, the only type of spittlebug in that park was this black-spotted gold colour species. There was no sign of the brownish-white spittlebug, which I had spotted a large colony in another park in May. Though the 2 black-spotted spitterbugs in the 2 pictures looked different in colour, they should be the same species. The colour variation was probably due to the camera flash,

photo photo I did find the real treehoppers (Family: Membracidae) at the usual location. They tend to gather on the slender branches of some plants. Their all-time favourite host plant was Straits Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum), where both adults and nymphs gathered, usually protected by army of ants. Another plant in this park that this treehopper favoured was the Limau Hantu (Suregada multiflora).

It was hard to spot spittlebugs in the wild. It size is quite small, around the size of a peanut. The treehopper is even smaller in size. While sticking my head around looking for spittlebug, I had encountered quite a few interesting creatures which I will share next week.

Update: 4 June 2016

Les had kindly written to me again in May 2016 to share with me the identity of this spittlebug (Ptyelinellus praefractus) which he had uncovered and the source indicated that it was found in Malaysia.

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