Illinois Natural History Survey • Prairie Research Institute
Treehoppers (Hemiptera: Cicadomorpha: Membracoidea) are a diverse group of plant-feeding insects comprising approximately 3,200 species worldwide. Currently, these species are placed in three families (Melizoderidae, Aetalionidae, and Membracidae), of which Membracidae is by far the largest and most widespread. Most membracids may be easily distinguished from related Hemiptera by their enlarged and often highly ornate pronotum (the dorsal part of the first thoracic segment). These insects have long attracted attention because of their bizarre forms and unusual behaviors. Many species are gregarious, forming large and often conspicuous groups of adults and immatures. Some of these are ant-mutualistic and may also exhibit presocial behavior. Most species are solitary and these are often cryptic, at least as immatures. True to their name, treehoppers are most abundant in forest or savanna habitats, particularly in the tropics, where they utilize a wide variety of tree species as host plants. Nevertheless, many species feed on herbaceous host plants, at least for part of their life cycle.