“I have been examining all the tiny insects in our garden and came across this 4-5 mm ‘collection of bubbles’ on 23rd January 2016 (above).
“I initially thought these were some eggs laid by a frog or other creature. But if you look very carefully at the image you will notice a slime trail on the bottom left. As I watched the ‘eggs’ began to move and I recognised it was the nymph of some sort of ‘planthopper’; having seen a number of such creatures. What was fascinating, and beautiful, was that the nymph was covered in numerous bubbles (above, below).
“Identification of the general group was then easy and they are Spittlebugs or Froghopper nymphs from the superfamily Cercopoidea.
“The Spittlebug nymph produces these bubbles or ‘spittle’ from the anus. One informative site states ‘The specialised Malpighian tubules of immature froghoppers synthesize products that make the filtered sap viscous. Nymphs use the tip of the abdominal breathing tube to introduce bubbles of air into these excreta to form spittle’ – HERE. If you return to the first image (top) you will now be able to appreciate that what we are seeing is the anal opening and bubbles being formed.
“A number of reasons have been offered for why nymphs encase themselves in these plant-sap-spittle-bubbles. These include for moisture, thermal regulation and most likely for protection – concealment or evasion from predators HERE.
“I wanted a few more images but the nymph had gone under a leaf of my ground cover the Spanish Shawl (Heterocentron elegans). I plucked the leaf to turn it over and was surprised that the response of the nymph was to shed most of the bubbles. I suspect this was a response to a perceived threat. I then watched as, in the space of 3 minutes, it ‘re-built’ its bubble protection (above for composite image).
“Looking forward to finding more of these fascinating creatures in our garden.”
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
24th January 2016