Philaenus spumarius, the 'Meadow Froghopper', is a species belonging to the family Cercopidae. The genus name "Philaenus" comes from the Greek "philein" meaning "love", while the species name "spumarius" is derived by the Latin "spuma" = "sparkling", referred to the foam nests. Therefore "Philaenus spumarius" may be translated as "foam lover."
These 'froghoppers' are quite common and widespread. Their original distribution was restricted to the Palaearctic ecozone. It is present in most of Europe, in North Africa, in part of Russia, in Afghanistan and in Japan. It has been introduced in North America and Canada.
The species reaches a body length of 5–7 millimetres (0.20–0.28 in). Most females are slightly larger than the males. The coloration of the body is very variable (about 20 different colors are known). Usually they are yellowish, brownish or black, with brighter patches on a dark background, but also with dark markings on a lighter background.
It is a very 'eurytopic' species, meaning that these froghoppers can tolerate a wide range of environmental factors and therefore they exist in many different habitats. They live in almost all open land habitats and in open forests. They are absent only in very wet and very dry habitats.
They are polyphagous, the host plant specificity is low, so that they can feed on a variety of plants, mainly grasses (Poaceae species), reed plants (Juncaceae species), herbs and sometimes trees. Have been identified over 170 host plants.
The most common mode of locomotion is running and flying, but the most striking is their strong jumping ability, very useful to escape from enemies. Froghoppers are really world champions in the high jump. An insect half inch long,reaches heights of 70 centimeters. In their extraordinary jumping ability they surpass even the fleas (Siphonaptera species).
The females lay eggs singly or in groups on the food plants of the larvae. A single female can produce up to 350 to 400 eggs. In unfavorable climatic periods, these froghoppers can survive in the form of eggs.
The larvae are well known for the self-generated foam nests, that can be observed in Spring in meadows (especially on Cuckoo Flowers, Cardamine pratensis and broom, Genista species). Their larvae in the foam nests are largely protected from predators and also get the necessary moisture for the development and temperature, so their mortality remains low even in bad weather. The larval stage lasts about 50 days. The adults leave the foam nest only when it is completely dried. This takes about ten days. The females mate soon after.