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Meadow Froghopper Philaenus spumarius

The Meadow Froghopper is extremely variable. It measures 6 to 8 millimeters and comes in all kinds of brownish, greyish and blackish colours. Some animals are entirely black with no markings whatsoever. Others are almost white with few black markings. Usually there are variable markings. In some of its variations the Meadow Froghopper is very similar to the Alder Spittlebug . The Meadow Spittlebug is slightly smaller and has very short hairs all over, which the Alder Spittlebug lacks. And animals with a broad, light line across the body just behind the head, like you see in the pictures, are always Meadow Froghoppers, never Alder Spittlebus. And to complicate things even more: there are more similar species. The larvae of the Meadow Froghopper are green or greenish yellow, those of the Alder Spittlebug are red. The Alder Spittlebug's spittings are high up in plants. The larvae of the Common Froghopper usually live close to the soil on the stem, or even on the roots of plants. On some plants, e.g. broom, however they are also found higher up.

Adult Meadow Froghoppers appear from the beginning of the summer. The female lays her eggs on numerous plants (some 150 hosts are known). The egg may hatch immediately, but it survives unfavourable conditions and may hatch much later. The larva sticks its snout into the vein of a plant and starts sucking up the plant juices. The juices contain lots of sugar. After some hours the larva starts to excrete a very sweet substance, similar to the honeydew produced by plant lice. The spittlebug however also excretes a kind of wax, which mixes up with the honey dew. The larva then blows air into the substance, which rather behaves like soap. And soon it is covered in foam. Once in foam, the larva is rather safe. The foam prevents it from drying out. And it is also very good against enemies, for most carnivores, such as birds, flies etc leave the spittle alone. Only a few digger wasps dare to drag out the larva from the spittle. And some bugs suck on the larva through the spittle. The larval stage takes up two to three months.

The Meadow Froghopper may become a pest in some low growing plants: some grasses, alfa alfa and clover mainly. In higher plants it may cause a gall or witch's broom. These galls are facultative, meaning they do not really benefit the animal. The galls caused by spittlebugs are always empty. Real galls are occupied by the larvae of the animal causing the gall. The larvae can not develop outside the gall. But spittlebugs do not live inside the gall, but inside their bubble.

The larva of the Meadow Froghopper lives inside a protective bubble, but the adults walk about freely. So how do they protect themselves? First of all they can fly, but do so seldomly. Their most powerful protection is the ability to jump. Measuring some 7 millimeters, they can jump 70 centimeters. Most of their enemies are small, so in one jump the Meadow Spittlebug is safe again. Actually, taking into consideration size and weight, the Meadow Froghopper is the best jumper of all animals.

The Meadow Froghopper is also known as the Common Froghopper, the Meadow Spittlebug and the Common Spittlebug.