The World’s Greatest Leaper

Common Froghopper Philaenus spumarius

It’s amazing to think they we may have Olympic athletes living in our backyards. This seemingly unremarkable insect is called the Common Froghopper (Philaenus spumarius), because of its frog-like resemblance and its ability to hop, and quite a fair distance. This insect, which belongs to the order of True Bugs known as Hemiptera, is only about 5 to 7mm (0.2in to 0.3in) long. It has been crowned the world’s greatest leaper, and with a specialised catapult system it can launch itself up to 70cm (28in) away, which beats fleas and grasshoppers.

According to research done at the University of Cambridge, the Froghopper accelerates from the ground with a force that is 400 times greater than gravity. In comparison, you and I jump with a force that is two to three times that of gravity. This is a huge leap for bugkind, and the bug experiences up to 400g’s. We would pass out when we experience about 5 g’s.

If you ever get to see one of these extraordinary insects, all you have to do is approach it, and perhaps wave a finger near to it, and watch carefully, because it is gone in a flash. It has to store energy in its leg muscles to be able to catapult itself into the air. This takes about 1 second. The jump takes 1 millisecond.

So next time you see that nasty looking cuckoo-spit stuck to your plants, just think, that is the breeding ground for a very special kind of Olympic athlete.


Please click on an image for a larger more detailed view. Clicking a second time may get you a little closer.


Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

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16 thoughts on “The World’s Greatest Leaper

  1. I love these little guys, and didn’t know they were the insects in the cuckoo spit. That’s a fabulous shot of him – I assume it’s ‘him’ because he has a whisker!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jude πŸ™‚ I was bought up with both measurements, although everything is mainly metric here. I realised that not everybody uses metric, so you are welcome πŸ™‚

      Like

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