Early Instar Flatid Planthopper Nymph (Phromnia sp., Flatidae)
The waxy filaments on the hind end of Flatid plant hoppers serve several purposes. They are hydrophobic and help conceal the insect’s body. They can be raised and lowered and fanned out and in my observation are used as a challenge or a means of communication between individuals when they encounter each other away from the group. Probably most importantly though, they are detachable, so if a hungry predator makes a grab for the nymph, they end up with a claw or mouthful of wax, allowing the nymph to escape.
Although this image is of an individual (they certainly take short forays out into the world away from their siblings), this species remains as a tight group numbering in the hundreds throughout their development.
I encountered these guys in the same trees (they form separate but not-too-far-apart colonies) this time last year and if we were so-inclined, I’m sure we could discover they would share a common ancestry.
At this early instar stage their bodies are 5mm in length but they develop to be well over 10mm with an expansive tail display……
…..before their final instar moult into the adult plant hopper.
Pu’er, Yunnan, China
See more Chinese true bugs and hoppers on my Flickr site HERE…..