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Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species
Find leafhoppers information at
What do they look like?
(See Homoptera page for additional information. ) These small (adults less than 13 mm long) insects are slim, with a wide blunt head and sucking mouthparts tucked in underneath it. They have 2 pairs of wings, and the front pair is often thickened and colored. They are most often green or yellow, but some have more colors and patterns. Adult leafhoppers can fly, but also hop quickly off a plant if disturbed. They are very active. Immatures lack wings so hop, or run, often sideways. Like aphids they sometimes excrete excess sugar solution. On the sides of their abdomen that have two flexible panels called "tymbals" that they can vibrate to make small sounds.
Where do they live?
Found all over the world, there are over 3,000 species. In Michigan alone there are nearly 200.
What kind of habitat do they need?
How do they grow?
See Homoptera page for basic information. Leafhoppers mature fast. In many species several generations can occur over just one summer.
How long do they live?
Usually just a few weeks or months, except for individuals that live through the winter by going dormant. These may last a year.
How do they behave?
Leafhoppers sometimes migrate seasonally to and from a winter dormancy area. They are not particularly social, but can communicate by emitting vibrations that carry down the stems that they are on.
How do they communicate with each other?
Leafhoppers have many means of communication. They're brightly colored, they have their special vibrating tymbals, plus the chemical communication that all insects use.
What do they eat?
All leafhoppers suck fluid from plants.
What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?
Leafhoppers dodge predators with their quick movements. Some emit a distress call that may startle a predator and cause it to drop the leafhopper. The bright colors on some suggest they might be toxic, but we don't have any information on this.
What roles do they have in the ecosystem?
These insects are carry lots of plant diseases.
Do they cause problems?
Leafhoppers are major agricultural pests. The main form of damage is caused by the diseases that they carry from plant to plant, but they also sometimes damage crops directly by their feeding as well. Leafhopper populations grow so fast that they can quickly become a problem.
Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
How do they interact with us?
Leafhoppers are a food source for many small predators.
Are they endangered?
No leafhopper species are known to be endangered.
IUCN Red List
George Hammond (author), Animal Diversity Web.
Animal Diversity Web
Hammond, G. . "Cicadellidae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 18, 2020 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Cicadellidae/
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School of Education
University of Michigan
Museum of Zoology
, and the
Detroit Public Schools
. This material is based upon work supported by the
National Science Foundation
under Grant DRL-0628151.
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