13 terms

Thorn Bug Key Terms

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Hemiptera
The order of insects that include treehoppers, leafhoppers, planthoppers, cicadas, aphids, and the true bugs. All hemipterans have sucking mouthparts for sucking plant fluid or blood and some can be identified by the triangular scutellum.
scutellum
Part of the thorax at the base of the wings, just behind the head. It is easy to tell some Hemiptera (true bugs) apart from other insects as their scutellum will be in the shape of a triangle. The scutellum is often concealed by the pronotum in treehoppers.
genus
A classification level that includes one or more closely related species. Genus is typically the first word in a scientific name. For example, the species name for humans is Homo sapiens, where Homo is the genus.
pronotum
Thorn or helmet-like structure extending over head and body of treehoppers. The purpose of this adaptation isn't entirely known and varies between species, but generally is thought to serve as an adaptation against predators.
substrate vibration
A form of communication using stems and leaves instead of air to carry the vibrational signals. Membracids produce many different "sounds" for many different purposes including warning calls when a predator approaches. Songs are used for mate attraction and communication between the female and her young.
Batesian mimicry
Adaptive mimicry where a harmless species has evolved to imitate a more harmful species. Some treehoppers belonging to the genus Bocydium appear to mimic the shape of a fungus that infects and kills insects.
treehopper
Member of the insect family Membracidae, within the order Hemiptera. Treehoppers feed on plants by piercing the stems with their long, sharp beaks and feeding on the nutrient-laden sap.
arthropod
An invertebrate of the phylum Arthropoda, which includes insects, spiders, crustaceans, and others. Characterized by an exoskeleton, jointed appendages, and a segmented body plan.
crypsis
The ability to avoid detection by use of adaptations such as camouflage or mimicry. Treehoppers' distinct pronota may promote crypsis by giving them the appearance of a thorn or other piece of plant matter.
Photo credit: B. O. Morris
Membracidae
A family of plant-feeding insects that belongs to the order Hemiptera. Most are easily distinguished from other hemipterans with their ornate and often ostentatious pronotal development resembling something Lady Gaga might wear.
Photo credit: Nature magazine
ant mutualism
The relationship between ants and treehoppers is mutualistic because ants help treehoppers by removing honeydew before mold has a chance to grow and the ants receive a tasty, nutrient-rich drop of food to eat. Some ants actively protect their treehopper herds by attacking predators or even moving them to safer feeding spots or into specially built structures around the host plant stem.
honeydew
Sweet, sticky substance excreted by treehoppers and other sap-feeding hemipterans. Ants love to harvest the honeydew from treehoppers and will tend them like herds of dairy cows, sometimes even protecting them from predators and parasites.
aposematism
A defense mechanism that can involve various kinds of adaptations, often of color and shape, to warn predators of distastefulness or potential injury.
Photo credit: Naturecloseups.com
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