Cuckoo Spit

There seems to be a lot of cuckoo spit around this year. Cuckoos famously herald the start of spring when you first hear one call. Sadly these days the start of spring tends to be heralded by the sound of a neighbour’s lawn mower revving up of a Sunday morning. The cuckoo is in decline. I suspect it is related to the decline of the birds that they parasitise. They are very particular about which other bird nests they lay their eggs in. Not all bird species are fooled by them. Professor Richard Dawkins explains all about it in one of his books – they are all well worth a read. Cuckoos also leap out of clocks to tell you the time. What they don’t do is spit.

So what causes these frothy blobs on plants? It is the larva of the froghopper, a cute little bug with an impressive ability to jump. photo of cuckoo spitWhen the larva hatches out of the egg it bites into the plant stem to feed on the sap; as it excretes the digested sap it pumps air into it with its modified anus (the IBS sufferer of the bug world) to create a blob of froth that envelopes the larva keeping it moist and protected from predators.

Over at the British Pathe website you can watch an informative film all about the lifecycle of the froghopper. It was made in 1932 and lasts just over 8 minutes. Before Youtube was invented, kids used to pay to watch this sort of thing at the cinema. I would recommend watching it if you wish to see froghoppers being moithered at every stage of their development, and notice how the nicely spoken gentleman explains it all without once saying anus, bum, bottom, harris, poop-chute or – pardon my French – derriere. Link below:

British Pathe: Froghoppers


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