Black and red froghopper

One of the largest homopterans (a group that includes leafhoppers and treehoppers) in the UK, this distinctive black and red creature starts its life in a froth of spit! It is an impressive jumper and when compared gram for gram, actually has a more powerful leap than a flea!

Fast Facts

Latin name: Cercopis vulnerata

Notable feature: about 9-11mm in length. Glossy black and red in colour with brown, translucent, hind wings. From above these creatures resemble brightly coloured frogs.

Where in the UK: Throughout England and Wales but absent from Scotland. When to see: Adults from April to August

image taken early morning at Priddy Pools in Somerset on the 5th June 2010

The adult Froghopper feeds by sucking on sap from the leaves and stems of various grasses and plants, while the nymphs will feed on the roots of these plants as it provides more effective cover for them.

Froghoppers are often more commonly referred to as spittle bugs, a reference to the froth/foam which their nymphs secrete and which is often found in fields, parks and hedgerows in late spring and referred to as cuckoo spit. These ‘foam nests’ protect the nymphs from predation and dehydration. The appearance of these spit deposits coincides with the arrival of migrating cuckoos hence the association and common reference to them as cuckoo spit.

Froghoppers do have wings and are good fliers but despite this you are far more likely to see them leaping amongst tall grass than flying past you. They are equipped with very effective back legs which they can extend in less than a millisecond and which act like a catapult, exerting a force equivalent to more than 400 times the froghoppers own body weight. This enables them to jump distances of up to 70 centimetres, a huge distance considering their diminutive size!

After mating the female lays eggs at the end of summer and nymphs emerge in the spring.