Spittle Bug Named Highest Insect Jumper

Study Causes Flea to Lose Place as Record Holder

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
A spittle bug nymph surrounds itself with a frothy secretion.

A spittle bug nymph surrounds itself with a frothy secretion. Ken Wilson; Papilio/Corbis hide caption

toggle caption Ken Wilson; Papilio/Corbis

A tiny insect called the froghopper, or spittle bug, has leapt over the flea as nature's most powerful jumper. Researchers say their experiment shows that the froghopper — a tiny, green insect that sucks the juice from alfalfa and clover — can leap more than two feet in the air. That's more than twice as high as the flea, and the equivalent of a man jumping over the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. NPR's Jon Hamilton reports on the study, which appears in the current issue of Nature.

Many small insects rely on a kind of catapult mechanism to jump. Using a camera that can take 2,000 pictures a second, Malcolm Burrows of Britain's Cambridge University discovered that the froghopper's catapult is a lot more efficient than the flea's.

His photgraphs show that a froghopper, a common farm pest, accelerates 10 times faster than its insect rival. That speed on such a small body subjects the bug to 400 times the force of gravity, or 400 Gs. Pilots diving through the sky in a fighter plane reach about 10 Gs, but they need a pressure suit to survive.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from