‘Can you please tell us what that frothy thing is?’ This was the question a parent asked me while pointing in the direction of a small frothy mass on a plant while on a nature trail in Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. His ward had drawn his attention to this. As I moved closer to examine the subject of interest, the child promptly said it was someone’s spit. Well, it did deceptively resemble the human spit.
But, as I moved the slimy froth away with my fingers, it exposed a tiny green creature. The child, as were everyone else in the group, was surprised at this. This indeed was the young one of an insect called the froghopper. Froghoppers are bugs. After hatching from the egg, the young froghopper crawls on to a tender stem of a plant to feed on plant sap. After feeding, the waste is mixed with some body secretions and excreted. During this process the froghopper blows air from the tail end of its body creating a frothy mass. This frothy mass resembling spit has earned them the name ‘Spittle Bug’. The `spittle’ is thought to protect the young bug from its predators and also from desiccating. The spittlebug moults a few times before it stops making froth and becomes an adult. The adults hop or fly to move from one place to another and also to escape from predators. There are several species of froghoppers in the world. All of them are small creatures, most measuring less than half an inch in length. Adult froghoppers are known for their “long hop” with many capable of hopping distances greater than 24 inches!