Flatid Planthoppers (Flatidae)

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One insect that is often seen in Thai forests is a species of the Flatid (Flatidae) Planthoppers also commonly known as a Flatid Leaf Bud, or to be more precise the nymph of a Flatidae bug. It is the white filamentous body covering of the nymph that causes first interest and then amazement as one realizes that is it in fact an animal. Younger specimens are often mistaken for a fungus or a plant and it is not until the nymph moves that you realize the mistake. As the nymph grows it develops a more insect like appearance, even though keeping the hairy filamentous covering, and it body, legs and face become apparent.

Another odd behaviour the nymph shows is that of aggregation - it can sometimes been seen in large aggregations on particular species of bushes on the forest floor - it is assumed that as these aggregations are of the nymphs then the aggregation may be food driven or pre-metamorphosis.

They can be seen throughout Thailand and indeed is reportedly eaten as a delicacy in some parts of the country. The photographs here represent sightings in a) Khao Yai National Park, Nakorn Ratchasima b) Maenam Pha Chi Wildlife Sanctuary, Ratchaburi and c) Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary, Chachoengsao.

A plant hopper is any insect in the infraorder Fulgoromorpha within the Hemiptera. The name comes from their remarkable resemblance to leaves and other plants of their environment and from the fact that they often "hop" for quick transportation in a similar way to that of grasshoppers. However, these planthoppers generally walk very slowly so as not to attract attention. Distributed worldwide, all members of this group are plant-feeders. There is a belief that one of their main defenses is that of mimicry although there are reports of a similar species in Madagascar using a chemical waxy repellent against birds. As can be seen from the picture of the presumed (based on seeing aggregations on similar host plants) adult it quite clearly mimics a leaf and it could be assumed that the nymph mimics a flower or fungal growth or lichen growth. Another observation is what seems to be the mass death of aggregants in some cases and this has been seen in different locations and forests at differing times of the year. 


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