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June 26, 2012

By Jason Cryan

Research & Collections

One of the great ironies of the insect world: the group of bugs that is arguably the most charismatic, the most bizarre, and the most alien-like on Earth is unknown to most people.  Easily overlooked because of their small size and the fact that they don’t bite or sting people, treehoppers are entomologically famous for their often fantastic and elaborate shapes.  Treehopper species in North America (including North Carolina) tend to be rather sedate in appearance, but many of their tropical counterparts have been described, with good reason, as “mild-mannered minimonsters”.  Some of these things really have to be seen to be believed…

As with the spittlebugs (the subject of a previous blog post), treehoppers are part of the insect order Hemiptera, characterized by having their mouthparts evolved into a permanent ‘straw’…an adaptation for sucking up liquid food.  And like those crazy spittlebugs, treehoppers are exclusively vegetarian, eating…

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