Cuckoo Spit and Froghoppers

This afternoon the children in R1 became nature detectives and armed with pots, magnifying glasses and ID guides, went in search of minibeasts in our school grounds.

They looked under pieces of wood, searched in leaf litter and checked on the back of leaves. The children learnt that a lot of minibeasts like dark, damp places hidden away from predators. Others, such as butterflies and bees can be found in the sunshine feeding on flowers.

There were minibeasts galore! From harvestmen to earthworms, snails and beetles. A lot of children overcame their fear of these miniature critters and learnt how to handle them carefully before putting them back exactly where they were found.

One clear sign that caterpillars were in the neighbourhood was a very tatty looking bush that had lots of holes in it. On a closer inspection the children found hundreds of caterpillars hiding on the undersides of the leaves.

The children also discovered mushrooms growing near our fire pit and smelt herbs such as mint and rosemary in our wildlife area.

But the stars of the day were the tiny froghoppers we found in the wildlife area. At this time of year something called ‘cuckoo spit’ appears on plants. It is a frothy liquid and it is not actually spit from a cuckoo but a secretion made by a nymph of an insect known as a froghopper. The name ‘cuckoo spit’ comes from the fact that this frothy substance appears at the same time of year as cuckoos.

The nymphs of a froghopper, which is a small, brown insect that can jump great distances, use this froth as protection against predators.

 The children went off in search of the cuckoo spit, carefully scraping it off to find the small froghopper larvae inside. Once the children had inspected these harmless critters, they put them back safely on the underside of a leaf. The froghopper will then set to work to produce more froth.

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