Spittlebug nymph, SEM

Spittlebug nymph, SEM

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Credit: DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of common meadow spittlebug nymph (Philaenus spumarius). Spittlebugs are also know as froghoppers or cuckoo spit bugs. The nymphs (immature stage) produce a foamy substance resembling spit along the stems of plants that serves a number of purposes. It hides the nymph from predators and parasites and insulates against heat and cold, providing thermal and moisture control. The nymphs pierce plant stems and suck sap with their needle-like mouthparts (as seen in this image). The nymphs feed face down on the stem, and as excess sap is excreted out the anus, it is mixed with a substance secreted by epidermal glands that enhances surface viscosity and stabilizes the foam to make it last longer. This mixture is forced out of the abdomen under pressure and as it is mixed with air, it forms bubbles. A few species are serious agricultural pests. Magnification: x6 when shortest axis printed at 25 millimetres.

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