Ripples 6/27/24

By Natalie McNeely, summer intern

Since coming to Woodland Dunes as a summer intern, I have learned about many flora and fauna species. I have participated in many activities, from bird banding and bee surveying to star-gazing, walking along the trails with summer camps, and the “50 Hikes” program. I’ve also learned about and have seen so many new species. So, I encourage you to come to one of the 50 Hikes programs because it’s been a great way to learn more about the trails, and no two hikes are the same.  

I have also read through some of the Woodland Dunes archive articles here. While looking at the past newsletters, I found the June 1998 Dunesletter, Volume 92, which stood out to me as it mentioned a particular animal that can be seen all over the preserve at this time of year. This animal has been fun to point out in the past week of education programming as we studied gross things in nature. This section was fittingly named, as it was titled, “Who’s Been Spitting in the Field.” The article highlights the spittlebug that turns into a froghopper, which is separately named because the spittlebug nymph has a distinctive life compared to its adult froghopper. As mentioned in a section of the article:

There are several species of spittlebugs, with different species selecting different plant species (shrubs and herbaceous plants only) for food. Adults lay eggs in the plant stems or in the sheaths of grasses, and the eggs hatch the following spring – one generation each year. A nymph’s spittle comes from special abdominal glands, which exude fluid from the digestive tract mixed with a gummy substance. As the “goo” is released, air bubbles are added to it. The spittle is very durable, and you’ll stay head-down on the plant stem; as spit is formed, it tends to flow over their bodies, protecting them from desiccation and concealing them nicely- so nicely that most people have no idea there is a bug inside!

Spittlebugs and froghoppers are rather fun creatures, and once you realize what you’re looking for, you can easily find lots of them when hiking around. So, I encourage you to look for the bugs that are “spitting in the field” and see if you can even find the green little nymph inside the spittle. 

Photo: Spittlebugs on aster leaves along Willow trail by Natalie McNeely


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