[Leps-l] Megisto cymela sipping spittlebug spit

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Jun 1, 2020, 10:24:26 PM6/1/20

Just wanted to share another fun video.  I have seen this behavior before.  I wonder if there is any value more than just moisture?


He was quite intent and actually spent several minutes doing this.  He was even interrupted once or twice but came back and to continue his drink.

Jeff Fast


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Wagner, David

Jun 2, 2020, 12:52:49 AM6/2/20

This is outstanding. I had no idea.  It looks like it primarily is going for fluid. And not probing deeply into the spittle to get closer to the nymph.


I wonder if the froth is sugary?  I bet not, otherwise ants would be interested.


Thanks for sharing.




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Sent: Monday, June 1, 2020 10:24 PM
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Subject: [Leps-l] Megisto cymela sipping spittlebug spit


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Peter T Oboyski

Jun 3, 2020, 8:34:25 PM6/3/20
I forwarded this observation to Vinton Thompson, who works on Cercopidae. He sent me the following paper. Of course the spittle is likely to vary depending on host plant species. But I thought you all would find this interesting. Using this title to search on Google Scholar brings up a number of interesting articles on cercopid spittle.

del Campo, M.L., King, J.T. and Gronquist, M.R., 2011. Defensive and chemical characterization of the froth produced by the cercopid Aphrophora cribrata. Chemoecology, 21(1), pp.1-8.

Abstract: Nymphs of the cercopid Aphrophora cribrata cover themselves with a frothy exudate while ingesting sap from their preferred host plant, the eastern white pine, Pinus strobus. Chemical analyses of froth collected from A. cribrata nymphs revealed an array of metabolites belonging to five chemical classes, including fatty acid-derived alcohols, c-lactones and a single 1-monoacylglycerol, as well as the polyol pinitol and the polyhydroxyalkanoate, poly-3-hydroxybutyrate. Bioassays showed the natural A. cribata froth, as well as a synthetic mixture comprised of representative compound classes identified therein, to be repellent to ants but largely devoid of topical irritancy in tests with cockroaches.


Peter T Oboyski, PhD
Executive Director
Essig Museum of Entomology
1170 Valley Life Science Building
University of California, Berkeley

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Jun 3, 2020, 8:54:38 PM6/3/20

What a wonderful study. I was about to ask what the satyr might have been seeking that wouldn’t attract ants – an ant-attracting spittlebug nest would = suicide. Thanks for sending. This provides some useful indicatrions.


Rick Cech

Joseph Kunkel

Jun 4, 2020, 10:45:01 AM6/4/20
Similar to puddling in seeking moisture.  Nice … adds to the concept of puddling in that the seeking of moisture is not a 1-dimensional set of behaviors seeking out only puddles.

Joe Kunkel
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Joseph G. Kunkel, Research Professor
122C/125 Pickus Center for Biomedical Research
Marine Science
University of New England
Biddeford ME 04005
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