Flatid planthoppers, belonging to the family Flatidae, are fascinating insects that play a significant role in the ecosystem. With over 1,446 species distributed among 299 genera, these planthoppers exhibit diverse characteristics and behaviors. Some of the most common types include the citrus flatid planthopper, Metcalfa pruinosa, and the green coneheaded planthopper.
Citrus flatid planthoppers are dark bluish-black insects covered in a white, waxy bloom, giving them a whitish or bluish-white appearance. They have orange or reddish eyes and are about 1/4 inch in length. On the other hand, the green coneheaded planthopper is virtually harmless to plants and sometimes feeds in groups alongside other planthopper nymphs.
Examples of their characteristics:
- Dark bluish-black or green in color
- Covered in a white, waxy bloom
- Orange or reddish eyes
- Feed on twigs and stems of plants
By understanding the unique traits and behaviors of flatid planthoppers, we can better appreciate the important role they play in our ecosystems.
What Are Flatid Planthoppers
Flatid planthoppers are small, jumping insects belonging to the Class Insecta and Order Hemiptera. They are closely related to leafhoppers and cicadas within the insect world. Key characteristics of planthoppers include:
- Unusually angled or pointed head shapes
- Antennae attached below the eyes, on the sides of the head
- Two thick basal segments and a thin bristle-like outer segment on each antenna
The Flatidae family is the fourth largest family of planthoppers, with 299 genera and 1,446 species. Flatid planthoppers can be found in various regions, including the U.S. Their distinguishing features include:
- Wedge-shaped, flattened bodies
- Pale green color
- Feeding on plant juices and producing honeydew
Here is a comparison table of other closely related insects to Flatid Planthoppers:
|Insect||Order||Body Shape||Feeding Habit|
|Flatid Planthopper||Hemiptera||Wedge-shaped, flattened||Plant juices and honeydew|
|Leafhopper||Hemiptera||Elongated, slender||Plant sap|
|Cicada||Hemiptera||Broad, stout||Plant sap, mainly from tree branches or roots|
In their native habitats, they seldom cause injury to healthy plants, but when introduced to new regions, they can display destructive feeding behavior, as seen with the Citrus Flatid Planthopper in southern Europe.
Characteristics of Flatid Planthoppers
Flatid planthoppers are small jumping insects belonging to the family Flatidae1. They are recognized by their:
- Unusually angled or pointed head shapes
- Antennae attached below the eyes on the sides of the head2
- Wedge-shaped and flattened bodies3
For example, Metcalfa pruinosa is a common flatid planthopper with a frosted appearance, and Flatormenis proxima is known for its broad, leaf-like wings4.
The life cycle of flatid planthoppers consists of the following stages:
- Eggs: Laid on leaves, usually in a row
- Nymphs: Hatch from eggs and produce white, waxy filaments as they feed on plant sap3
- Adults: Develop wings and continue feeding on plants
Flatid planthoppers exhibit various colors and patterns, some examples include:
- Flata spp.: Pale green or white
- Flataloides spp.: Yellow-orange with black markings
- Lanternflies: Vivid colors and intricate patterns
|Flata spp.||Pale green or white||Plain|
|Flataloides spp.||Yellow-orange||Black markings|
|Lanternflies||Vivid colors (red, blue, yellow, green)||Intricate|
Habitat and Distribution
Flatid planthoppers are primarily found in warmer, tropical regions, with their diversity increasing in the south. Some species do extend their range into more northern areas (North American Flatidae). For instance, Metcalfa pruinosa, the citrus flatid planthopper, is found in North Carolina during the summer (Citrus Flatid Planthopper).
These planthoppers can be found on various host plants, including woody and semi-woody plants such as shrubs and trees. Metcalfa pruinosa, in particular, is known to infest citrus as well as a wide variety of other ornamental plants (Citrus Flatid Planthopper). Examples of other host plants include:
- Pale green stems
- Tropical habitats
Flatid planthoppers display a diverse range of species. This biodiversity is more concentrated in the southern regions, with fewer widely distributed species found in northern states (North American Flatidae). A comparison table of the different ranges for these insects is provided below:
|North American||Northern and southern|
|Metcalfa pruinosa||North Carolina|
Behavior and Ecology
Flatid planthoppers primarily feed on the sap of various plants, using their specialized mouthparts to pierce plant tissues and extract the nutritious juices. Some examples of plants they feed on include:
While feeding, they produce a sweet substance called honeydew that attracts other insects like ants.
Interactions with Ants
Flatid planthoppers and ants have a mutualistic relationship:
- Planthoppers provide ants with honeydew.
- Ants protect planthoppers from predators and parasites.
This interaction benefits both species and contributes to their overall success in their habitats.
Flatid planthopper populations can exhibit fluctuations due to various environmental factors such as:
- Availability of food sources
- Presence of predators and parasites
- Climatic conditions
In some cases, planthoppers may gather near a stream of water to maintain optimal humidity for their eggs. This behavior helps ensure the survival of their offspring.
Comparison Table: Flatid Planthopper vs. Other Planthoppers
|Feature||Flatid Planthopper||Other Planthoppers|
|Number of species||Over 1,400||Varies|
|Mutualism with ants||Yes||Varies|
|Impact on agriculture||Minimal||Significant (some)|
In summary, flatid planthoppers have unique feeding habits and mutualistic relationships with ants that contribute to their ecological success. Their population dynamics are influenced by environmental factors, and they exhibit specific behaviors to ensure the survival of their offspring.
Identification and Classification
Major Genera and Species
Flatidae is a large family of planthoppers with 299 genera and 1,446 species. Some major genera within the Flatidae family include:
These genera belong to different tribes, such as Selizini and Nephesini, within the Flatoidinae subfamily source.
Wing Venation Patterns
A key feature of flatid planthoppers is their distinct wing venation patterns. One noteworthy aspect is the submarginal vein.
- Submarginal Vein: This vein runs parallel to the margin in the forewings and presents unique characteristics depending on the genera.
For example, Cromnella has a simpler wing venation pattern compared to Seliza, which exhibits a more intricate pattern (source).
In summary, flatid planthoppers can be identified and classified based on the major genera and species within the family, as well as their unique wing venation patterns, particularly the submarginal vein.
Control and Management
Challenges in Managing Flatid Planthoppers
- Resistance to chemical controls: Due to their adaptive nature, flatid planthoppers may develop a resistance to some insecticides over time.
- Difficult detection: They can be hard to spot given their small size and close resemblance to plant parts, such as twigs.
- Regular monitoring: Keep a close eye on your plants to catch any signs of infestation early on.
- Promote natural predators: Encourage the presence of beneficial insects that can prey on flatid planthoppers.
Chemical and Natural Controls
Example Chemical Controls
- Insecticide A: Highly effective but may harm beneficial insects
- Insecticide B: Milder and safer for beneficial insects, but may be less effective against flatid planthoppers
Example Natural Controls
- Lacewings: Beneficial insects that prey on flatid planthopper nymphs
- Ladybugs: Effective predators of planthoppers, but may also prey on helpful insects
Comparison Table: Chemical vs Natural Controls
|Chemical (Insecticides)||Fast-acting, highly effective in reducing flatid planthopper populations||May harm beneficial insects, potential development of resistance|
|Natural (Predators)||Environmentally friendly, cost-effective, sustainable||May take longer to reduce the planthopper population, risk of attacking helpful insects|
In summary, the control and management of flatid planthoppers requires regular monitoring, consideration of both chemical and natural control options, and adaptation to the challenges they may present.
Resources and Further Information
For those interested in learning more about the Flatid Planthopper, refer to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website. Keep in mind that this website may not comply with Section 508 (Accessibility Requirements) of the Rehabilitation Act, and links also do not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
One of the most common Flatid Planthoppers in North Carolina is the Citrus Flatid Planthopper. This species is dark bluish-black, with a white, waxy bloom giving it a whitish or bluish-white appearance. They have orange or reddish eyes and are about 1/4 inch in length. Adults appear during the summer.
For information specifically about North American Flatidae, head over to the Planthoppers of North America website. Flatidae is the 4th largest family of planthoppers, with hundreds of genera and over 1,400 species.
- Mexico: In countries like Mexico, other similar flatid planthopper species can be found.
- Caterpillars: Although not closely related, flatid planthoppers can be mistaken for caterpillars due to their appearance and size.
- Websites: Use reputable sources for more information, like university extension publications or government sites.
- Links: Always verify the credibility of linked content before accepting it as fact.
- Endorsement: Refrain from blindly trusting endorsements and take time to research and confirm information.
Here’s a quick comparison of two related planthopper species:
|Citrus Flatid||North Carolina||Whitish, bluish-white||1/4 inch||Summer|
|Green Coneheaded||North Carolina||Green||1/4 inch||Spring|
By learning more about flatid planthoppers and their characteristics, you can deepen your understanding on how they fit into the ecosystem and their impact on agriculture or the environment.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Flatid Planthopper
I’ve looked through the sections on your site, and the closest things I found were the Buffalo Tree Hopper and perhaps the shape of the Red Banded Leaf Hopper. I have quite a few of them (10-20) on my Cycad and once in a while I see them on my lime tree. The like the shade and the underside the best. They can fly but rarely do. I haven’t been able to tell if the shells on the underside are from what they are eating or from nymphs that are hatching. They are pale green in colour with the biggest being about a centimetre long. They have been on the plant for at least a few months. I seem to remember a least a couple being there for almost a year now. I live in Sydney, Australia and the pictures were taken today (it is currently spring time). Thanks for the help!
This is one of the Flatid Planthoppers in the Family Flatidae. We have a similar looking species in the states known as the Chloris, Anormenis chloris.
Letter 2 – Unknown Flatid Plant Hopper from Borneo
Fluffy white insect, Borneo
Discovered this fantastic, fluffy little beauty in an area of primary/secondary rainforest and I’m at a loss as to what it could be. It was 1 inch in length, 6 visible legs and when handled, it would occasionally jump 12 inches to a higher object. It was quite a tedious exercise just to get the picture you see now, as it refused to stop moving. This was one of the better photos, I have a few more and some short video footage. Would be great to finally put a name to it, being my second encounter in the last 4 years, this seems quite a rarity! Best regards.
This is some species of tropical Plant Hopper. We will try to contact Andy Hamilton, a recent contributor to our site who specializes in tropical Homopterans.
…I am NOT an expert on tropical insects, so I have sent the message on to someone who knows the tropical planthoppers. [Whatever] she says … I for one will believe her.
[Her] assessment is “My best guess would be a flatid … [they are sometimes] … just wax all over, although I have never seen a leg sticking out like this.” Flatidae are planthoppers with very wide front wings, and are sometimes called “moth bugs.” You will find lots of pictures of North American flatid nymphs on BugGuide.net
Letter 3 – Cerogenes auricoma from Honduras
A fairy in the woods? What on earth…
I am a Peace Corp volunteer in Honduras and while wondering through the woods near my site a couple of weeks ago I thought I found the secret enchanted forests where fairies lived! Seriously though I have never seen anything like this. At first my partner and I beleived it was some type of bird, but up close you can see its wings and everything. It flys very slow, almost like floating in the air. I looked a little bit through your guyses catalog of bugs I have no idea where to even begin when looking up this beast. The only thing I have an idea of is that it flys, and looks incredibly soft like little feathers come out of it. It is an amazing animal. Any help on the name so I can do some research on this bad boy would be wonderful! Thanks.
Your letter is the third request we have received in the last month to identify Cerogenes auricoma, a Fulgorid Planthopper. We got the answer through Eric Eaton whot wrote: “thanks to the world authority, Lois O’Brien. She says it is Cerogenes auricoma. No common name, but the Latin translates to “wax producer with golden hair.” Seems appropriate. Apparently the native Indians use the yellow wax on the head and thorax of this insect to make a dye.”
Letter 4 – Moth Bug from South Africa
Subject: Moth identification
Location: Krugersdorp, Gauteng, South Africe
March 6, 2015 12:49 am
Hello, I found this moth? in the swimming pool and happily it was still alive. I have never seen anything like it before. I put it in a glass in order to be able to photograph the underneath as well as the wing. It is about 12mm in length. I hope that you can help with identifying it.
Signature: Kathy Stubbs
Though it is not a true moth, this Planthopper in the family Eurybrachyidae is commonly called a Moth Bug in South Africa. We identified it as Paropioxys jucundus on iSpot.
Thank you so much for the identification and your quick response in doing so.
The diversity and design of insects is amazing. Thank you for your website which enables us to put a name to what we find in our gardens.
Letter 5 – Mottled Avocado Bug from Namibia
Subject: Found this little guy in the pool
Geographic location of the bug: Namibia, Windhoek
Time: 11:26 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I’m living in Namibia for 7 years now and I’m pretty attentive if it comes to insects. But I’ve never seen this guy before. The smell when threatened reminds me of Heteroptera. It is currently summer and rain season.
How you want your letter signed: Kind Regards
This Planthopper belongs to the order Hemiptera which contains the True Bugs in the suborder Heteroptera and many members of the family, which includes Stink Bugs, produce a noticeable odor. Earlier today we posted additional images of what we have identified as the Mottled Avocado Bug, Parapioxys jucundus.
Letter 6 – Citrus Flatid Planthopper
Location: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Naples FL
May 24, 2011 9:12 pm
The leafhopper in the attached photo has appeared in May in Southwest Florida. I have found two photos of it online, but neither identified the species. It appears to be a powdery white with bright yellow eyes. Any ideas?
Signature: Bug curious
Dear Bug curious,
According to BugGuide, the Citrus Flatid Planthopper, though it is frequently found on citrus, it can also be found on a “wide range of other host plants” and then goes on to state that it “‘Feeds on just about anything green’ (Dr Hamilton).” It is also called a Floury Mothbug.
Letter 7 – Museum Specimen Flatid Planthopper needs Identification
Location: Unknown- possibly Central America
June 17, 2011 5:21 am
I’m currently updating our small Hemiptera collection at Manchester Museum. This specimen came with no label. I’ve searched for visual information online but have found nothing save for a plate in Biologia Centrali America which shows an illustration of a similar looking species. The plate can be found here (no. 17)
The Biologia Centrali-America lists the species as Flata conspersa (its modern name seems to be Doria conspersa), however I can find no more information on this insect, and was hoping I could get a second opinion. Is it a Doria?
Signature: Gina Allnatt, Curatorial Trainee at Manchester Museum
You probably have better credentials than we have. We’re just visual artists with a little extra time on our hands and we have no formal entomological or even naturally scientific training. Based on our visual observations compared the gorgeous old illustration in the image in the link you provided, we believe you have nailed this identification as Flata conspersa, the genus which has obviously undergone more recent taxonomic revision. We would suggest that you log onto our posting and supply a comment. In the future, should an expert in Flatids write to us, that person may be able to confirm this identification and you will automatically be notified.
Letter 8 – Flattid Planthoppers or Moth Bugs from South Africa
Subject: White African Bug
Location: South Africa
January 24, 2015 11:58 am
A friend of mine was biking through south africa and took a photo of this bug and a second of a whole tree branch covered in them. What is this bug??
Signature: Confused Friends
Hi Confused Friends,
The white insect you want identified is an immature Planthopper, probably a Flattid Planthopper in the family Flatidae based on this image on iSpot. Two of your images include orange or yellow winged insects that we are speculating are adult Mothbugs, a South African name for Flattid Planthoppers. The adults in your images look similar to Phromnia rosea, a species from Madagascar pictured on the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Research Blog. We suspect your individuals are closely related as both adults and nymphs look similar to the images of Phromnia rosea pictured on Wildscreen Arkive.
Letter 9 – Flatid Planthoppers from Indonesia
Subject: Bug on cashew tree- planthopper?
Location: Bali, Indonesia
February 22, 2017 12:14 am
We have a mystery planthopper who loves our cashew trees. It causes quite a problem for our farmers and we would like to identify the specific species, or at least know what kind of natural treatment would work best!
Signature: Mara Moran
We began our search on BugGuide, a North American site, in an attempt to narrow down this Planthopper to the family Flatidae, and according to BugGuide, they feed on: “above-ground portions of a wide variety of woody/semi-woody plants.” Your individual resembles Euphanta munda on BunyipCo where it states: “The genus is a northern one with species known from Nerw Guinea, Fiji and Indonesia. This one measures about 7 mm.” Using a key word search, we located an article on Jurnal Entomologi Indonesia that mentions Sanurus indecora feeding on cashew trees. An image of the species on Independent Academia appears to match your individual. While we cannot read the site, http://ditjenbun.pertanian.go.id/sinta/wereng-pucuk-mete-wpm/ may also be helpful.
Letter 10 – Flatid Planthopper
Subject: Possible Fairy or Yucca Moth
Geographic location of the bug: Nature Trail in SE New Mexico
Time: 11:35 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: We found this guy last weekend while walking on a nature trail in SE New Mexico. We almost missed him. He is so tiny. We weren’t even sure it was an insect until we took a closer look. He was so small, we couldn’t get the camera to focus on it without putting a hand behind it. The next day I found two on the same bush, or at least one in the same area. They didn’t move the entire time we examined them.
We looked on line, and the closest match we could find was fairy moths or yucca moths. However, we could not see any antenna on the guys we found. The photos on the Bug Guide site all seemed to have noticeable antenna. There are yucca and ocotillo on the nature trail, but none of them are in bloom, yet.
Thanks for all you do to educate us.
How you want your letter signed: Curious
We do not believe these are moths. In our opinion, they look like Flatid Planthopper, possibly Flatormenis saucia which is pictured on BugGuide and is reported from New Mexico, or possibly a different species. Flatid Planthoppers are Free-Living Hemipterans that feed by sucking fluids from plants with their piercing mouthparts.