Length: adults are 6.4-7.6 mm
Right: Typical Cercopoid spittlemass.
The nymphs form the spittlemass and spend their time feeding inside. The spittle prevents desiccation, and hides the nymph from potential parasites and predators.
Often a single spittlemass will shelter a number of nymphs of various ages.
Above left: Lepyronia quadrangularis nymph, probably fourth instar. Above right: fifth instar nymph of Lepyronia quadrangularis.
Kathleen Doering (1922) noted that some Lepyronia quadrangularis nymphs may stay in their original spittlemass for the entire period of development, while others leave the original spittlemass and move to a new location, either moving into another nymph's spittlemass, or constructing a new one. She found that nymphs often moved two to six times as they progressed through the various instars.
Doering described a change that takes place in a typical spittlemass as it ages and as the nymph prepares to molt from the fifth instar to adult. The spittle dries and shrinks somewhat, forming a chamber inside the spittlemass where the newly emerged adult can wait and allow its body to harden. The adults sometimes emerge with a great leap, "leaving a round opening" in the spittlemass. The adult Lepyronia quadrangularis are known by the common name Diamond-backed Spittlebug.
Insects of West Virginia