Fulgorid Planthopper (Lantern Fly) – Species Profile & Facts
Fulgorid Planthoppers, also known as lanternflies, are very numerous species of insects. More precisely, there are 143 genera and 716 species of Fulgoridae. You’ll find these insects spread around America and northern Mexico.
Though there aren’t too many species in America, these are the most representative for our guide. In this article, I’ll give you an insight into the Fulgorid Planthopper, with its life cycle, diet, size, reproduction, appearance, and other characteristics.
Fulgorid Planthopper Distribution & Habitat
Fulgorid Planthoppers are tropical insects, so they’ll look for a tropical habitat to settle down and live their lives. North America houses many planthopper species that regularly reach sizes of 3.5 to 4 inches in length.
One particular species, known as the Spotted Planthopper, was observed in New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. These insects live on fruit trees, grapevines, and hardwoods.
But their favorite host is the tree-of-heaven, for no other reason than because they like it. During their lifetime, Fulgorid Planthoppers will feed on the sap of fruit trees, hardwoods, and grapevines.
But that’s a story for another time. Fulgorid Planthoppers aren’t native to America, though, at least not all species. Some come from Asia, and thanks to their invasive behavior, they made their way into other countries.
In northern Mexico, only 9 species of Fulgorid Planthoppers were found, with most of them having congeners in Central America.
Fulgorid Planthopper Characteristics
Fulgorid Planthoppers have distinct differences across the many existing species. But they do have many similarities, despite this. You won’t mistake a Fulgorid Planthopper for another insect if you know your stuff. That’s what I’m saying.
Their size is mostly similar, as well as the unique reticulate venation found on their hindwings and forewings. These vein patterns are opaque most times with a tectiform position. But some species like the Scolopsella and Rhabdocephala have elongated heads.
Fulgorids also have a row of teeth on the second tarsomere of their hind legs, which is quite odd. Having teeth on your legs is certainly…interesting?
Spotted Lanternflies have grey forewings with black spots here and there. Their hind wings are red and black, and they’re best exposed during flight. The head of the lanternfly is black, with black legs and a visible yellow abdomen.
Usually, though, most Fulgorid Planthoppers look the same, with slight differences in coloration or body parts size.
– Size & Growth
Fulgorid Planthoppers reach an average size of 0-4 to 2 inches in length. Across all 716 species, lanternflies have similar sizes because they’re all one big, happy family.
Interestingly enough, planthoppers are 1.5 inches wide due to their wings. They look like oversized fleas with wings, is what I’m saying.
– Diet & Nutrition
When it comes to nutrition, planthoppers are quite dangerous for the environment. They feed on vines, trees, and even ornamental herbs. They especially enjoy nibbling on the grapevine, causing mayhem in orchards. Farmers always need to protect their crops against these silent killers. But this is only if there are too many planthoppers in one single place.
The problem is that planthoppers eat more sap than they need, ejecting the extra as a sticky excretion that remains on the plant. This will attract bees and other insects and invite sooty molds to grow in the honeydew.
The infested plants become sick, and the sickness spreads to other plants if the planthoppers feed constantly. Woody plants are their favorite snack, but they also munch on shrubs and various trees.
– Life Cycle & Reproduction
The life cycle of a Fulgorid Planthopper is one year only. After mating, the female will lay her eggs, which will hatch in May next year. In July, the nymphs will have already reached adulthood and started mating.
By next winter, most adults will die, leaving behind a new generation of planthopper eggs. Their lifespan is very short, as a result. In essence, adult planthoppers only live for six months after reaching adulthood in July.
During the nymphal stage, planthoppers feed daily, so it’s technically possible to catch the lanternfly nymphs on their way up and down the plant. Sticky bands will do a great job. When they grow up, planthoppers feed less often and it’s harder to catch them.
Nymphs look different from their adult counterparts, as well. They have no wings, and they’re shaped like stinkbugs. They got through the same instar stages as other insects, and planthopper nymphs are black with white spots during the first three instars. During the fourth instar, the nymphs become red with black spots, and then they become adults.
Once they become adults, lanternflies will start mating and lay their eggs during late summer and even until November-December.
The mating process happens fast, with the female laying seed-like eggs covered in a muddy secretion, on trees, stones, furniture, or anything else deemed preferable for hatching. Come next spring, the eggs will hatch, and new planthoppers will be born!
Fulgorid Planthoppers aren’t that well-known, even among insect lovers. Not much has been written about them. That’s why this guide is shorter than usual.
But I’ve covered the general facts about lanternflies – what they eat, how they reproduce, their lifespan, appearance, and geographical habitat.
If you have any questions, leave them below, and I’ll reply shortly!