What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

on my eggplant
These bugs are freaking me out! They are crawling up my eggplant plants. As you can see, they look like double decker armored ants. They are with an ant in this photo and they seem to live peacefully with the ants except that I don’t know what’s happening with that ant which looks a little like it is in midair and I’m not sure why. The plants have ants on them too. I am scared of these bugs! Should I be? Will they eat the eggplants? I finally have a couple eggplants on the plants and I am looking forward to eating them myself and I don’t want to share with weird looking bugs.
Please advise.
Lisa in Los Angeles

Dear Lisa,
You have immature Keelbacked Treehoppers, Antianthe expansa, which often infest eggplants and other solanaceous plants like tomatoes and peppers. They will not eat your eggplants, but they will suck the juices from the plant stems. Treehoppers are related to aphids and also have a symbiotic relationship with ants. The Treehoppers secrete honeydew from their anuses and the ants love to lap up the sweet treat. The immature Keelbacked Treehoppers are quite spiny and can pinch. The adults are green and winged. When they feed on the plant juices with their sucking mouthparts, they sometimes spread viruses to the plants. They are injurious and should be eliminated from the garden either with soapy water, or our favorite method, squashing.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
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