Fowler-Finn and the treehoppers on Here and Now


Good vibrations! These bugs do their sexting via plant stem

On a warm summer night, it can sound like there are insects all over the place, calling out from every lawn, bush and tree branch.

But most of what insects are saying to one another we can’t hear.

Saint Louis University evolutionary ecologist Kasey Fowler-Finn has been listening in on the hidden world of insect communication and one bug’s unusual love songs. That bug is called a treehopper. They're actually pretty common — but easy to miss. The ones that Fowler-Finn studies in Missouri and Illinois are known by the Latin name of Enchenopa binotata. They're small and black — the “binotata” in their name means “two marks,” referring to the two yellow spots on their backs. When you see them clinging to a plant stem, they look a lot like tiny thorns.