card
367

Cyphonia clavata

OLogy Series
animal
card
367

Cyphonia clavata

OLogy Series
animal

This treehopper looks more like an ant than the flying insect it is. Its costume, called a "helmet," grows out of its upper back. Treehoppers are masters of disguise - they might look like a leaf, a thorn, a twig, or bark. Some, like this ant lookalike, deter predators by mimicking other dangerous creatures. Others are for camouflage, helping them blend in with their background to hide from predators.

The treehopper's ant disguise looks like the ant and treehopper are facing:

each other

away from each other

the same direction

Are you right?

Correct!

A predator chasing a fleeing treehopper would presumably think it was face-to-face with an angry ant in a defensive posture.

Why would a predator avoid a treehopper that looks like an ant?

ants are poisonous

ants taste bad

both of these

Are you right?

Correct!

Many ants are poisonous, with painful stings. They also taste bitter to many predators. So carrying ant around an ant disguise is the probably worth it for a soft, tasty treehopper!

What is the treehopper's diet?

ants

leaves

plant sap

Are you right?

Correct!

Treehoppers use their straw-like mouthparts to suck the sap, or juices, from plants. They ingest so much of this sweet sap, they ooze sugar water called honeydew. This honeydew becomes food for other insects like bees, wasps, and especially ants that often protect the treehopper in return.

While many species have evolved to mimic other animals, treehoppers are the only ones to mimic ants.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

At least 2,000 different species have evolved to mimic ants, including spiders, mites, beetles, caterpillars, and crickets.

Many treehoppers insert their eggs into plant tissue.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Some females leave clumps of eggs on leaves or stems. Many place their eggs inside the plant, which usually doesn't harm them. When the nymphs hatch, they feed on plant sap.

Description: A flying insect that looks like a black ant
Range: Central and South America (from Mexico to Argentina)
Diet: plant sap
Cool fact: Treehoppers vibrate their bodies to make sounds to attract mates and warn others if a predator nears.

Image credits: photo by Andreas Kay (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license).