Planthopper nymphs are fascinating insects that can be found on various plants, hiding under a unique fluffy tail or fluffy bum. This peculiar appearance is caused by the white, fluffy wax they secrete to obscure themselves from view. These nymphs belong to a group of insects called planthoppers, which feed on plant juices and thrive on a wide variety of herbs, shrubs, and trees.
One common example of a planthopper nymph is the green coneheaded planthopper, belonging to the Acanalonia conica species. The nymphs may appear like toads due to their mottled gray skin and humped backs. Apart from Acanalonia conica, there are many other planthopper species with nymphs that share similar characteristics such as their distinctive wax secretion.
Although planthoppers themselves can cause damage to a few economically valuable crops like grapevines and hops, most planthopper nymphs have a minimal impact on plants. Hitching a free ride on a plant, they pose no real threat in terms of plant damage, making them a visually intriguing element of garden environments.
Planthopper Nymph Overview
Identification and Appearance
Planthopper nymphs are small insects known for their fluffy tail or fluffy bum appearance. These nymphs are covered in a pongey white cottony wax, giving them their fluffy look. Some key features of planthopper nymphs include:
- Unique abdomen shape with a fluff or filament
- Pairs of broad wings folded in a tent-like fashion
- Variety of colors like purple-blue and lime green
The antennae can be found below the eyes on the sides of the head, with the two basal segments being thick and bulbous.
Nymphs vs Adults
Comparing planthopper nymphs and adults can help better distinguish their unique features. Here’s a comparison table of nymphs and adults:
|Hop or walk slowly
Adult planthoppers have a more streamlined appearance, with narrow wings and faster hopping abilities. Meanwhile, nymphs are typically smaller and have a distinct fluffy tail, making them easily recognizable.
Lifecycle and Reproduction
Eggs and Hatching
Planthopper eggs are laid by the females in plant tissues. Nymphs hatch from these eggs after a certain period. For example, the green coneheaded planthopper nymphs hatch in the spring and feed on twigs and stems.
Molting and Development
As nymphs grow, they undergo several molting stages that help them transition into adults. The spotted lanternfly has five growth stages:
- First stage: black with white spots, size of a pencil eraser
- Later stages: similar but larger
Short metamorphosis stages allow nymphs to shed their exoskeleton and become adults.
Mating and Oviposition
Adult planthoppers mate to produce offspring, and females lay eggs using their ovipositor. These eggs are deposited in groups within plant tissues, where they undergo development and hatch into nymphs the following year.
|Life cycle stage
|Fluffy tail (bum)
|Wings, bright colors
|Hatch from eggs
|Lay eggs in plant tissues
- Nymphs: fluffy tail or bum, early life cycle stage, molt to become adults
- Adults: wings, bright colors, responsible for mating and laying eggs
Pros of Planthopper Reproduction:
- Fecund: Able to produce many offspring
- Adaptation: Variety of host plants
Cons of Planthopper Reproduction:
- Pest: Can damage crops and ornamental plants
- Hard to control: Nymphs and adults have different feeding behaviors
Behavior and Habitat
Hop and Glide Mechanics
Planthopper nymphs are known for their ability to hop and glide through the air. They do this when disturbed or to move between plants. Their jumping abilities can be attributed to their strong, muscular back legs.
Planthopper nymphs feed on the sap from plant stems, particularly the phloem. They use their ouchenorrhyncha-type mouthparts to pierce plant tissues and extract the sap. Feeding habits can lead to the production of honeydew and the growth of black sooty mold fungi.
Preferred Host Plants
Planthopper nymphs can be found on a variety of host plants, including trees, shrubs, and garden plants. Some examples of host plants include:
- Maple trees
- Black walnut trees
Nymphs tend to prefer plants that provide them with ample sap for feeding and good coverage for protection.
Ecological Impact and Damage
Damage to Plants
Planthopper nymphs are known to cause damage to plants by feeding on their sap. They have sucking mouthparts that allow them to pierce plant stems and extract nutrients. This can lead to:
- Yellowing of leaves
- Stunted growth
For instance, the small brown planthopper causes significant damage to cereal crops.
Honeydew and Sooty Mold
Planthopper nymphs produce honeydew, a sticky substance that can:
- Attract ants and other insects
- Promote the growth of sooty mold on plant surfaces
- Reduce photosynthesis and overall plant health
The planthopper nymphs on perennials are an example of this issue.
Predators and Natural Enemies
Natural enemies of planthoppers include:
- Parasitic wasps
A specific interaction between the brown planthopper and the fungal entomopathogen Metarhizium anisopliae has been studied for potential biocontrol methods.
Pest Management and Control
- Chemical pesticides can be effective against planthopper nymphs.
- However, they may also harm non-target organisms.
Chemical pesticides can provide an option for controlling planthopper nymphs, such as the snowy planthopper. They often help reduce infestations, but may also negatively impact beneficial insects and non-target organisms. When applying chemical pesticides, follow the label instructions and use the recommended rate.
Insecticides and Soaps
- Insecticidal soaps are effective against nymphs and adults.
- They are often considered less toxic to humans and the environment.
Effective control of planthopper nymphs can also involve using insecticides and soaps. For example, the spotted lanternfly can be managed by applying insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils. These products are generally less toxic to humans and the environment than chemical pesticides but need to be applied with care to prevent damage to plants.
Biological Control Methods
- Natural enemies can help control planthopper populations.
- Conservation of beneficial insects is crucial for long-term control success.
Biological control methods rely on the use of natural enemies to manage planthopper nymphs and other pests. Examples include predatory insects, parasitic wasps, and entomopathogenic fungi. Conservation of beneficial insect populations, such as dryinidae wasps, is vital to ensure long-term success in controlling planthopper infestations. Create a favorable habitat for beneficial insects to promote their populations and ability to manage planthopper populations.
Species and Distribution
Notable Fluffy-Bum Planthopper Species
Various planthoppers are known for their fluffy tail or fluffy-bum nymph stage. Some notable species include:
- Scolypopa australis: Also known as the Passion Vine Hopper, this insect is native to New Zealand.
- Flatidae family: Insects in the Flatidae family are generally wedge-shaped, flattened, and pale green. The nymphs produce white waxy material, giving them a fluffy appearance.
- Ricaniidae family: Found in various parts of the world, Ricaniidae planthoppers often have nymphs with fluffy tails.
|Nymphs’ Fluffy Appearance
|Passion Vine Hopper
|White fluffy tails
|White waxy material
Planthoppers, including fluffy-bum nymphs, can be found across the globe. They are members of the infraorder Fulgoromorpha and can be classified into various families such as Terraphopidae, Cixiidae, and Fulgoridae.
- New Zealand: Scolypopa australis, or the Passion Vine Hopper, is specifically found in New Zealand, where it feeds on passion vine and other plants.
- Worldwide: Flatidae and Ricaniidae planthoppers, with their fluffy nymphs, are found in various locations around the world. These insects feed on plant sap and cause minimal damage to plants. They can be compared to aphids and other sap-feeding insects from the suborder Auchenorrhyncha.
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 – Fluffy Bum from Australia
Subject: What’s that bug?
Location: Marlborough sounds
January 17, 2017 2:00 pm
Hi bug man hope your having a good day.
I have found a bug with a furry tail usually appearing on my wetsuit or wood outside at night.
The nymphs are wingless and are informally known as fluffy bums. When sufficiently aroused they will hop off their plant ‘with a snap’. Like all planthoppers they suck plant sap.
We are amused by the common name Fluffy Bum and it is very descriptive for many nymphs in the superfamily. According to Getty Images: “the wax secreted from behind may serve to conceal this tiny creature from predators.”
Letter 2 – Planthopper Nymph from Australia
2mm looks like a walking shrimp
March 10, 2010
Hi, this was on my computer monitor, it didnt’ jump or fly, just walked. looks kinda like a shrimp, with a brushy tale. also looks like the monster from The Host (Korean film).
To Daniel, from the bug experts.
This is some species of Planthopper nymph and we cannot even be certain of the family. The Brisbane Insect website has a photo listed as unidentified that is very close to your specimen.
Letter 3 – Planthopper Nymph from South Africa
Tiny green striped bug with puffed out tail
Location: Suburbs, Pretoria, South Africa
January 30, 2011 3:08 am
We’ve seen quite a lot of these in our back yard in Pretoria, South Africa. They are tiny, and their tails can puff out. They can jump quite far. They tend to be on their own (not in groups). Difficult to describe them, as you’ll see by the photos!
This is a Planthopper Nymph in the superfamily Fulgoroidea. You can see many examples of North American Planthopper Nymphs by browsing through the images on BugGuide. We were not able to find a close match on the Brisbane Insect Website, however, one unidentified Planthopper Nymph looks somewhat similar.
Letter 4 – Immature Palm Planthopper (we believe) from Australia
Strange sideways/backwards-walking, jumping bug
January 4, 2010
We say this strange bug in Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, Australia on Christmas Day. The weather was dry and it was warm. We were out of direct sunlight although the bug did sit on some of the wood around us in the sunlight looking for heat perhaps.
Assuming we’ve identified teh head correctly it has reddish eyes a white and orange coloured two-piece “back” and a segmented tail end with black and white stripes running across the segments.
The strangest feature were the two long antennae-type bits at the tail end (we thought this was the head first) which where dark with white strips and sort of feathery white ends.
It seemed to walk in any direction without turning round and jumped up to a metre very quicky.
I live in Scotland and have never seen anything like this so don’t even know where to start. It looks like a beetle of some sort!
Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia
This was a challenge since it is an immature insect and they can be difficult to identify. We have received similar images in the past that we identified on the Brisbane Insect website as Wattle Hoppers in the family Eurybrachyidae, but this specimen looked different. We clicked around on the Brisbane Insect website a bit longer and stumbled upon the Palm Planthopper, Magia subocellata in the family Lophopidae, and it looks quite close.
Many thanks for this! I’d done some insect ID many years ago but don’t have any of the resources. Funnily enough I think I saw something resembling the adult Planthopper closeby while we were entertained by the wee fellow.
Great work, hopw you have a great 2010. J
Letter 5 – Planthopper Nymph from South Africa
Subject: Bug with troll hair
Geographic location of the bug: Gauteng, south africa
Time: 01:34 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Please help ID this bug
How you want your letter signed: Jacques B
This is a Planthopper Nymph, a group of insects in the superfamily Fulgoroidea. We have a similar image on our site of an unidentified Planthopper nymph, and now that we have this new request, we will renew our effort to identify the species.
Letter 6 – Board-frons Planthopper Nymph from Australia
Subject: Identify bug please
Location: Sydney, Australia
January 19, 2017 9:41 pm
We saw this unusal bug that sometimes walked like a crab with the antennae pointing up and we also saw it with them down on the surface. They seemed to be at the rear too.
It was about 10mm long and a bit hairy.
See attached photo. Not that crisp a shot as it kept moving!
Signature: Mark B
We knew this was an immature Hemipteran, and we quickly located this matching image of two Board-frons Planthoppers from the family Eurybrachyidae on the Brisbane Insect website where it states: “The Australian Eurybrachyidae are quite distinctive from the world fauna. All Australian species belong to the subfamily Platybrachyinae. Members in this group are small to medium in size with broad body. They have mottled forewings and coloured abdomen, usually brown, red, yellow or orange in colour. All of them have broad frons (front part of head). Like other members in the Hemiptera order, Planthoppers have their sucking mouth-parts to feed on host plants by sucking up the sap. They can be found resting on the main tree trunk or stems of their host plants, usually Eucalyptus or Acacia. They are not easily noticed because of their camouflaged colours. When come closer to them, they will walk to other spots, either up, down or sideway, then stop moving. If come even closer and try to touch them, they will jump with a ‘tick’ sound and fly away. ” The site also states: “Planthopper nymphs can be found on leaves, stems and tree trunks. They are usually dark brown in colour, becomes lighter-brown colour when grown. Most planthopper nymphs look very similar. The two long upwards pointing “tails” are the characteristic.” There is not enough detail in your image for us to attempt a species identification.
Letter 7 – Planthopper Nymph
Subject: Two-striped Planthopper (Acanalonia bivittata) nymph ?
Location: Naperville, IL
July 9, 2013 7:51 pm
From what I’ve read here, planthopper nymphs can be nearly impossible to identify to the species level, but could these fuzz-dragging little creatures be two-striped planthoppers? They remind me of miniature crustaceans or snails, and I almost always overlook them by mistaking them for dried-up flower detritus. I’ve been inspecting my milkweed patch very carefully these past weeks, however, in the hopes of finding some Monarch eggs. Although a few females have visited my milkweed lately, they seem interested only in nectaring and not laying. So I have to content myself with the other abundant life forms thereupon. Have a lovely week!
Signature: Dori Eldridge
We can neither confirm nor deny the species identity of this Planthopper nymph, but we suppose it might be the Two-Striped Planthopper based on photos posted to BugGuide.
Letter 8 – Immature Palm Planthopper from Australia
Subject: What bugs are these?
Location: Cairns, QLD, Australia
December 3, 2016 7:11 am
Found these in my yard.
We are pretty confident this is a Planthopper nymph in the family Family Lophopidae, probably a Palm Planthopper nymph, Magia subocellata, based on images posted to the Brisbane Insect site and FlickR. We are postdating this submission to go live to our site at the end of the month while we are away for the holidays.
Letter 9 – Immature Planthoppers
Weird things in my yard
I posted these to my facebook account months ago and none of my friends have any idea what these things are. They disappeared as mysteriously as they appeared.
You didn’t tell us where your yard is, which might help in an accurate identification. You may be in Italy, or you may be in Australia, or you may be in Canada. We just don’t know. This is a Fulgorid Planthopper. Your photo lacks critical detail for an exact species identification, but it does seem to resemble a photo posted to BugGuide of an immature Acanalonia bivittata, the Two Striped Planthopper.
Letter 10 – Homopteran, possibly immature Fulgorid Planthopper
Pure White insect on floor of sulawesan rainforest
Sun, Nov 30, 2008 at 10:03 AM
Viewing the variety of colors and shapes in the insect world on your site is a truly humbling experience. What I have found distinctly lacking are “bugs” that are pure white. When I have come across insects that are white, they always have some markings.
While walking the Tangkoko Rainforest in North Sulawesi a few weeks ago, I asked my guide to identify the white object on a leaf. He stated that it must be some feather of a bird. Clearly, my guide had never seen such a bug before. As Ralph Emerson said: “People see what they are prepared to see.”
This is the second pure white insect I have seen, the other in a woodpile in Rwanda which I sent to you without response.
Can you identify this one for me? I would be interested on thoughts on pure white insectss.
Dr. Sal Sclafani, Brooklyn, New York
Tangkoko Rainforest, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Dear Dr. Sal Sclafani,
This is some species of immature Homopteran, a member of the now defunct order that includes aphids and planthoppers. Some immature Homopterans secrete a white waxy substance that forms filaments and the wax is a protection for the soft bodied insects. We suspect this may be one of the Fulgorid Planthoppers, but we are not certain. There is a spectacular Central American Planthopper, Cerogenes auricoma, that also produces the waxy filaments as an adult. In the interest of correct modern taxonomy, the Fulgorid Planthoppers are, according to BugGuide, now classified thus: “Order Hemiptera – True Bugs, Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids and Allies
Suborder Auchenorrhyncha – Free-living Hemipterans
Superfamily Fulgoroidea – Planthoppers
Family Fulgoridae – Fulgorid Planthoppers “
Letter 11 – Possibly Fulgorid Planthopper Nymphs
Unknown insects from Madagascar
Mon, Dec 29, 2008 at 8:36 PM
Found incidentally during a geological prospection in arbustives impenetrable hills:)
Two groups of individuals’ about twenty each, unite in end of branch, close to the soil. Do not steal (chrysalises? In transformation?)
North of Madagascar (Ambilobe region)
What we are certain of is that these insects are in the order Hemiptera which includes True Bugs, Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids and Allies and probably in the Superfamily Fulgoroidea, the Planthoppers. Many immature Fulgorid Planthoppers secrete a white waxy substance that forms filaments and the wax is a protection for the soft bodied insects. We suspect this may be one of the Fulgorid Planthoppers, but we are not certain. There is a spectacular Central American Planthopper, Cerogenes auricoma , that also produces the waxy filaments as an adult. We will continue to try to identify this insect more specifically, and we also welcome any input from our readership.
Letter 12 – Fulgorid Planthopper Nymph
Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 12:59 AM
hi there. I was recently on a hike in Eshowe South Africa and came across this bug. It looks like grass hopper family to me, but I cant be sure. I’d love it if you could Identify it for me! 🙂
Michelle Krystle Govender
We believe this is an immature Fulgorid Planthopper. Other than that, we can’t give you specifics on the species. We have gotten numerous images from South Africa in the past week.
Letter 13 – Planthopper Nymph from Indonesia
Bug encounter in Bali, Indonesia
Location: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
September 4, 2010 8:05 pm
I was really amazed when I saw this bug on the floor in my guest house. I just realised that right before this insect appeared I reset the counter from my camera. I made sure to take as many pictures as I could, and the next moment it jumped/flew away.
Looks like a really strange critter, didn’t find anybody from the local people to identify it. It was January this year in the wet season on the Indonesian Island Bali in the center of Ubud.
I was there for 3 months and never saw it again.
This is an immature Planthopper in the family Eurybrachyidae, known as an Eurybrachyid Planthopper. We have received numerous submissions from Australia, and you may see photographs of many species on the Insects and Spiders of Brisbane website. We suppose some of the Australian species may also be found in Indonesia.
Letter 14 – Planthopper Nymph
White bug with extended growths
Location: Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
November 12, 2010 6:30 pm
Hi, We saw this bug in Sabah, Borneo in October. It was about 1” long and wide.
It seemed to have grown silk-like filaments that have bound together (rastafari-style), perhaps as protection to make it look too big to eat.
Thanks Frank D
Signature: Frank D.
Though we are uncertain of the exact species, this is a Planthopper in the family Fulgoridae, and it is an immature nymph. This family is often characterized by nymphs that secrete a waxy substance that often forms long filaments, presumably for protection.
I have updated the description on my web page to reflect your ID.
Letter 15 – Unknown Planthopper Nymph
What on earth is this bug?
Location: Orlando, FL
May 13, 2011 4:07 pm
I found this guy on my gardenia [not more than 1/8″ in total length]. One person says it’s beneficial, but can’t recall the name. All I know is my gardenia is dying a slow death and this is the only bug [and a snail] I can find. There are white slightly fuzzy patches near the bud bases as well… Help! I don’t want to kill a good bug, but I want to save my gardenia! Many thanks 🙂
This is some species of Planthopper Nymph in the superfamily Fulgoroidea, but we haven’t had any luck trying to identify the species on BugGuide. Nymphs are often very difficult to identify to the species level. There are many Nymphs in the family Issidae pictured on BugGuide, but none matches your specimen. While Planthoppers can cause problems to plants if they are numerous, a single individual is probably not responsible for your Gardenia’s slow death.
Thank you SO much for your assistance! I will do some research on this species and investigate other plants in my yard and see what I find… Have a great weekend!!!
Letter 16 – Treehopper or Planthopper Nymph
Subject: Unknown Beetle
Location: SW Indiana
July 2, 2013 6:31 pm
This is about 1/2 the size of a pea. It was sitting on a branch in the bush outside my front door. on 2 July. I thought it was a spider at first. Not sure what the ’cotton’ is coming out the rear. It did fly off.
This is not a beetle. It is the nymph of a Planthopper or Treehopper, a freeliving Hemipteran. We will attempt to provide a species identification in the future.
Letter 17 – Planthopper Nymph from South Africa
Subject: bug with feelers
Location: Pretoria, South Africa.
January 25, 2014 9:37 am
Ni am wondering if you can identify this little bug for me. He was on our table at a restaurant in Pretoria, South Africa and is very small
This is some species of Planthopper nymph, and there are many similar looking nymphs on the Brisbane Insect website.
Letter 18 – Planthopper Nymph from India
Subject: ID PLease
Location: Dibrugarh, Assam, India
February 3, 2014
I have found these two unknown insects in Dibrugarh, Assam, India but
don’t know the name.
So would like to know the name.
We are splitting your request into two separate postings. The creature with the white filaments is an immature Planthopper Nymph, possibly in the family Fulgoridae. The filaments are actually a waxy substance produced by the Planthopper nymph as protection.
Letter 19 – Planthopper Nymph:
Subject: please help identify this thing 🙂
Location: New Jersey, close to the coast.
July 20, 2015 5:49 pm
Hello there, I was sitting in my yard when i saw this little guy on my hand. No idea how it got there, but then I put it on my pant leg and took a picture. No one I showed it to has seen anything like it, not with those blue “butthairs” anyway. What is it???
Signature: just a Jersey girl
Dear Jersey Girl,
Immature Hemipterans can be very difficult to accurately identify, but we believe we have correctly identified this as an immature Issid Planthopper, Thionia simplex, based on this BugGuide image. The “butthairs” explained on BugGuide: “in nymphs, the wax filaments projecting from the rear are straight and bundled, not bushy.”
Letter 20 – Planthopper Nymph from Tanzania
Subject: hairy bug Tanzania
Location: 8°50’41.64″ S 34°00’58.09″ E
March 19, 2016 9:43 am
we saw this curious little bug today on a walk in Chimala in the South West of Tanzania. It was no more than 1cm in size. It is between rainy seasons (the last rains were a few weeks ago in February, but it should start raining soon again).
Thank you for your help!
This is an immature Planthopper in the superfamily Fulgoroidea, and though we have not had any luck finding an exact match, this individual from iSpot looks very similar. National Geographic has an example of an immature Planthopper from Suriname.
Letter 21 – Planthopper Nymph from Peru
Subject: ID required
Geographic location of the bug: Manu Wildlife Centre, Peru.
Time: 07:48 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: This little critter, about the size of my little finger nail, was busily making its way along a wooden railing. Any large ants it encountered got out of its way but tiny ants didn’t. In fact one if them seemed to nick a piece of the white stuff that the insect was carrying, presumably as some sort of disguise.
How you want your letter signed: Pat
This is a Planthopper nymph, probably in the family Fulgoridae, and nymphs can be very difficult to identify with certainty. Here is an image on Reddit Awwnverts that is similar and an image on Jeff Cremer Photo for comparison. Many Planthoppers secrete a waxy substance for protection and some have a symbiotic relationship with Ants.
Thanks, Daniel. Another example of the wonderful diversity and ingenuity of nature.
Letter 22 – Planthopper Nymph from South Africa
Geographic location of the bug: Brits, South Africa
Time: 11:53 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi
My daughter spotted this treehopper. (that’s what we suspect it is) but can’t find any info on this specific type.
It was extremely warm the past couple weeks. 35’c daily.
How you want your letter signed: Caity and dad
Dear Caity and dad,
Immature Hemipterans can be very difficult to identify to the species level, and sometimes genus and family levels are also difficult to verify conclusively. Here is an image of a very similar looking Planthopper nymph also from South Africa. Based on Wikipedia images, we suspect your individual is in the family Eurybrachidae.