• Dr Claire Harkin

Literally dripping in spittle!

On Wednesday this week, Dr Alan Stewart and I joined other members of the BRIGIT research consortium to deliver a "Biosecurity and Xylella" training event at the beautiful RHS Wisley. We were lucky with the weather and had a great session out in the gardens in the afternoon demonstrating some field entomology to eager participants.

On the way back we took a detour to the Knepp wildland project in West Sussex on the lookout for nymphs of the Aphrophora genus, the last of the froghopper groups that I had yet to see. You might remember from my earlier "Nymphs Knowhow!" post that Aphrophora nymphs are usually found on woody shrubs and trees, particularly favouring those of the Salix genus, and Alan said there was likely to be a good population on the willow trees at Knepp.

Well - he wasn't exaggerating! The trees were quite literally DRIPPING in spittle! It was like there'd been an explosion in a shaving foam factory! Every so often you could hear a gentle 'plop' over the sound of cuckoos calling as a bit more spittle dripped from the trees. I've never seen anything like it!

Uncovering the bugs inside we found what were likely second instars of either Aphrophora salicina or Aphrophora alni. We'll come back in a few weeks once they've developed into adults to see which species they were:

©Claire Harkin
2nd instar Aphrophora nymph (likely A. salicina)

©Claire Harkin
2nd instar Aphrophora nymph (likely A. salicina)

On the way back to the car, we also came across some Neophilaenus spittle (likely the common Neophilaenus lineatus), which, true to form, were on grasses:

As well as our friend Philaenus spumarius among the herbaceous plants around the field edge:

All in all, it was a pretty fabulous day! If you see any spittle near you, please do let us know via our iRecord site.

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