Planthopper Nymph (Fluffy Tail/Bum): Nature’s Unique Little Wonders

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:

Feature Nymphs Adults
Appearance Fluffy tail Slender body
Wings Broad wings Narrow wings
Mobility Hop or walk slowly Fast jumpers
Size Smaller Larger

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:

  1. First stage: black with white spots, size of a pencil eraser
  2. 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.

Feature Planthopper Nymph Planthopper Adult
Life cycle stage Early developmental Mature, reproductive
Appearance Fluffy tail (bum) Wings, bright colors
Eggs 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.

Feeding Habits

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:

  • Hydrangeas
  • 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
  • Wilting
  • 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:

  • Birds
  • Spiders
  • 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

  • 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.

Comparison Table

Common Name Family Name Distribution Nymphs’ Fluffy Appearance
Passion Vine Hopper Scolypopa australis New Zealand White fluffy tails
Flatid Planthopper Flatidae Worldwide White waxy material
Ricaniid Planthopper Ricaniidae Worldwide Fluffy tails

Global Distribution

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.

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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11 thoughts on “Planthopper Nymph (Fluffy Tail/Bum): Nature’s Unique Little Wonders”

  1. Believe it or not, they’re edible! I found a website — http://www.thaibugs.com — that’s got loads of wonderful pictures and insights into, well, you can figure it out. They cover many aspects of insects, including a whole page on the edible ones. This bug isn’t included there, but on another page it specifies that these flowerly flatidae are a delicacy. I’ll be searching for more information in the coming weeks.

    Dave
    http://www.slshrimp.com

    Reply
  2. I’m pretty sure that these guys are edible; there’s a history of consumption in Madagascar. Granted, that’s a long way from Borneo, and the fact that one representative of the family is edible doesn’t necessarily mean that this one will be, it would certainly be enough to motivate me to try one — in the event I was lost in the tropical forest.

    Dave
    http://www.smallstockfoods.com

    Reply
  3. Thank you! And my apologies – I missed the nearly identical photo of this planthopper you posted just last week.

    Reply
    • We suspect the insect in the video is also an immature Fulgorid Planthopper, though not necessarily the same species.

      Reply
  4. So, how do I get rid of them? I’ve got them in Geelong. Stacks of them. They seem to just jump, it’s more than a hop, to somewhere else when I spay the, with water or insecticide.
    Please help.

    Reply

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