Treehoppers. We don’t even know how to begin explaining them, so instead, take a look at the following picture. Yes, that is an actual insect. And no, we don’t know why it looks like that.
Source: Patrick Landmann / Science Source
Treehoppers are some of the strangest looking insects that have ever been found, and scientists still don’t know their exact purpose. The big segment you see in the above picture is called a pronotum, which is the section behind the insect’s head.
Some scientists think that treehoppers model themselves after the Ophiocordyceps fungus, a type of fungus which takes control of its host, kills it, and then sprouts a flower through their head. The flower then erupts and spreads more fungal seeds all over the ground onto more bugs. Scientists believe that if some insects which know what the disease is may avoid attempting to prey on the treehopper because it doesn’t want to receive the disease. Other treehoppers may camouflage themselves as having poisonous colors in order to appear distasteful, which may save themselves from being eaten. Some species of treehoppers even mimic ants which have mandibles or stingers, so if a predator sees them it may get scared. But it’s all a joke – treehoppers don’t actually have any mandibles of stingers, and are actually pretty defenseless.
It gets weirder though. Treehoppers actually have a pretty nice relationship with ants, because they produce a sugary excrement called honeydew that ants and some other bugs absolutely love. This literally means that ants drink out of a treehopper’s rear end. Normally though, it won’t care too much. The treehopper feeds on the sap inside trees using a piercing spike which can suck the sap into their bodies.
The treehopper is definitely a strange insect. However, with our knowledge increasing rapidly, hopefully we’ll come to understand these weird bugs someday.