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Grade level: 6-13+
Length: 5 minutes
Next Generation Science Standards: PS4.A, LS4.C
Treehoppers, pea-sized insects of the family Membracidae, communicate with each other in an intriguing way: using jiggles. By rapidly bouncing their abdomens, they send vibrations down through their legs and into the plant they are standing on. Nearby treehoppers pick up and interpret the vibrations, which vary in frequency and pattern depending on the message being conveyed. Now, scientists are listening in, and starting to crack the treehopper code. And it turns out, the conversations are happening nearly everywhere they eavesdrop—from tropical rainforests to urban gardens. Your own backyard may in fact be hosting a cacophony of communication that is imperceptible, until you listen in just the right way.
Video Discussion Questions
- How do treehoppers communicate with one another?
- How do we know that treehoppers communicate with each other even though we can't hear them?
- How do male treehoppers use their communication style to compete with each other over a female?
- How common is the communication style of treehoppers in the insect world?