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File:Mimicry of Siphanta acuta edit1.jpg
Siphanta acuta
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hemiptera
Suborder: Auchenorrhyncha
Infraorder: Fulgoromorpha
Superfamily: Fulgoroidea
  • see text

A planthopper is any insect in the infraorder Fulgoromorpha within the Hemiptera. The name comes from their remarkable resemblance to leaves and other plants of their environment and from the fact that they often "hop" for quick transportation in a similar way to that of grasshoppers. However, planthoppers generally walk very slowly so as not to attract attention. Distributed worldwide, all members of this group are plant-feeders, though surprisingly few are considered pests. The infraorder contains only a single superfamily, Fulgoroidea. Fulgoroids are most reliably distinguished from the other members of the classical "Homoptera" by two features; the bifurcate ("Y"-shaped) anal vein in the forewing, and the thickened, three-segmented antennae, with a generally round or egg-shaped second segment (pedicel) that bears a fine filamentous arista.

Nymphs of many Fulgoroids produce wax from special glands on the abdominal terga and other parts of the body. These are hydrophobic and help conceal the insects. Adult females of many families also produce wax which may be used to protect eggs.[1]

Planthoppers are often vectors for plant diseases, especially phytoplasmas which live in the phloem of plants and can be transmitted by planthoppers when feeding.[2]

A number of extinct member of Fulgoroidea arer known from the fossil record, such as the Lutetian age Emiliana from the Green River Formation in Colorado, USA.[3]



As mentioned under Auchenorrhyncha, some authors use the name Archaeorrhyncha as a replacement for the Fulgoromorpha.

The extant families of Fulgoroidea are:[1]


Mentioned in a key scene [4] from Alfred Hitchcock's film, Marnie:

"In Kenya, there is quite a beautiful flower-- rather like a hyacinth. If you should reach out to touch it, you would discover that the flower is not a flower at all, but a design made up of hundreds of tiny insects called [flatid] bugs. They escape the eyes of hungry birds by living and dying in the shape of a flower."

Very likely, the original inspiration for the "Marnie" movie dialog is found in "African Genesis" [1963] by Robert Ardrey. On pages 65-68, Mr Ardrey reports that (sometime in 1957) while in Nairobi talking with L.S.B. Leakey ...

" Dr. Leakey introduced me to a coral-coloured flower of a raceme sort ... which upon closer inspection turned out to be ... [a] colony [of insects] clinging to a dead twig compris[ing] the whole of a flower so real in its seeming that one could only expect from it the scent of spring. ... Leakey shook the stick. The startled colony rose from its twig and filled the air with fluttering flattid [sic] bugs. ... Then they returned to their twig. They alighted in no particular order and for an instant the twig was alive with the little creatures climbing over each other's shoulders in what seemed to be random movement. .. Shortly the twig was still and one beheld again the flower. The green leader had assumed his bud-like position with his vari-coloured companions just behind. ... A lovely coral flower that does not exist in nature had been created before my eyes."

Ardrey's passage may also have inspired another version of this phenomenon in Hammond Innes' 1971 "Levkas Man", [pages 16,17].

"... The oblong blossom of this artificial flower is formed by the clustering of moths on a dead twig. An example of insect camouflage--yes, but it is something much more. Shake the twig and the moths rise in flight, then after a while they settle again on the twig and for a moment they are just moths of different colours crawling over each other with no apparent purpose. But purpose there is, for in another moment order has replaced chaos and, suddenly, there is the flower again, the full flower, all coral--so perfect a blaze, so natural a form that humans are fooled into leaning down for the scent and birds ignore it in their flighting search for food. But there is more to this wonder yet, for the flattids [sic] have not assumed a natural camouflage; there is, in fact, no real blossom that approximates to the form they take instinctively. They have thought up this form for themselves, creating it in the same way that an abstract painter creates a picture. And if you breed these little insects, you will find that each batch of eggs produces at least one with all green wings, whose place will always be at the tip, several with shades of green tinged with coral, and the rest pure coral. In other words, the whole fantastic hoax is self-perpetuating from the egg to the twig."


  1. 1.0 1.1 C. H. Dietrich in Resh, V. H. & Carde, R. T. (Eds.) 2003 Encyclopedia of Insects. Academic Press.
  2. Lee et al. (2000) Phytoplasmas: phytopathogenic mollicutes. Annual Review of Microbiology 54 221-255
  3. Shcherbakov, D. (2006). "The earliest find of Tropiduchidae (Homoptera: Auchenorrhyncha), representing a new tribe, from the Eocene of Green River, USA, with notes on the fossil record of higher Fulgoroidea". Russian Entomological Journal 15 (3): 315–322. 
  4. Tony Lee Moral (2002) Hitchcock and The Making Of Marnie, page 48 http://books.google.com/books?id=hTFAC7wSuW4C&dq=fattid+bug&source=gbs_navlinks_s
  • Stephen W. Wilson (2005) Keys To The Families Of Fulgoromorpha with emphasis on planthoppers of potential economic importance in the southeastern United States (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha). Florida Entomologist 88(4) PDF
  • Larivière, M.-C.; Fletcher, M.J.; Larochelle, A. 2010: Auchenorrhyncha (Insecta: Hemiptera): catalogue. Fauna of New Zealand, (63)
  • Swzedo J.; Bourgoin T.; Lefèbvre, F. 2004: An annotated catalogue of Fulgoromorpha, :37-137. In: Fossil Planthoppers (Hemiptera: Fulgoromorpha) of the world. An annotated catalogue with notes on Hemiptera classification. Swzedo, J., Th. Bourgoin & F. Lefèbvre. J. Swzedo edt., Warsaw 2004, 199 pp + 8 pl.
  • Bourgoin T. 1997-2011: FLOW : Fulgoromorpha Lists On the Web. [1]

External links