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Bugs in Your Backyard: Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata

Spring is here and there are so many insects that are out and about right now.  Today we are highlighting a fantastical creature who looks like it is straight out of a Harry Potter movie.  The oak treehopper, Platycotis vittata, is native to Florida and many other coastal states.

 

Oak treehopper. Photo: Erin Harlow, UF/IFAS

In the Landscape

It is relatively common on oak trees, particularly laurel (Quercus laurifolia), water (Quaercus nigra), and turkey oaks (Quercus laevis) in North Flroida.   You can usually find several individuals in a colony.  If you are looking for these in your yard then check the ends of the branches in the oak trees.

Biology

While you may see several together, it doesn’t mean that they are damaging.  Oak treehoppers deposit their eggs in branches, but rarely cause noticeable damage.  Sometimes they are confused with thorn bugs, Umbonia crassicornis, a close relative which can cause damage to plants.  In north Florida, the largest number of treehoppers will be observed in late March.  While not much is known about this insect, it seems like there may be two generations per year.  This means you might find this insect in the fall as well.

Oak treehopper striped form, Columbia County, FL.  Photo: Erin Harlow, UF/IFAS

Colors of the Rainbow

Oak treehoppers are interesting because they have highly variable color patterns.  They can be mottled or striped and have beautiful patterns.  In the laboratory, they have been observed changing between mottled and striped forms.

Control

This uniquely shaped insect may look strange, but there is no need to be alarmed.  It rarely, if ever needs to be controlled.   So just enjoy this insect if you ever find them among your trees.

Photo credit: Erin Harlow, UF/IFAS

2 Comments on “Bugs in Your Backyard: Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata

  1. That’s one of the most beautiful bugs I’ve ever seen. Not counting bees, butterflies, moths and velvet cowkiller ants.

    • I agree! My 7 year-old son found them in our yard and I think it changed the way he looks at all insects. Such beauty in something so small.

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