Hoppers of North Carolina:
Spittlebugs, Leafhoppers, Treehoppers, and Planthoppers
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MEMBRACIDAE Members: NC Records

Thelia bimaculata - Locust Treehopper

© Matthew S. Wallace- male

© David Guzman- female

© Kyle Kittelberger- nymph
Family: MEMBRACIDAESubfamily: SmiliinaeTribe: Telamonini
Taxonomic Author: (Fabricius, 1794)
Online Photographs: BugGuide, GBIF                                                                                  
Description: This species has a pronounced horn that is angled upward. Adult males are a deep chocolate-brown to black with a broad yellow blotch on both sides of the pronotum; the head is also yellowish. Females resemble the males, but have a faded or aged look to them: the yellow patch is still present, contrasting with the rest of the grayish pronotum, but it appears dirty rather than the clean, sharp colors present on the male. In both sexes, the tegmina is hyaline with smoky apices; the undersurface of the of the body is gray-brown and pubescent, darker in males. Adult females are 11 mm long, not counting the horn, while males are slightly smaller and less robust. (Kopp & Yonke, 1974)

Nymphs are dark and have a row of small spines down the back of the abdomen, and a small but noticeable forward-facing horn on the top of the thorax.

For more images of this species, see: BG.

Distribution in North Carolina
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Out of State Record(s)
Distribution: Eastern and central North America, except the Gulf Coast states (BG)
Abundance: Primarily found in the mountains, with several records from the Piedmont. Seasonal distribution: 10 June-19 October (CTNC)
Seasonal Occurrence
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Has been found near mixed hardwood forest; where Black Locusts are present. It tends to prefer younger Black Locust, especially trees in more direct sunlight, typically avoiding trees in dense forest (BG).
Plant Associates: Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) (CTNC); typically only found on this plant, but can sometimes be found resting on other plant species such as Fagus grandifolia (American beech), Gleditsia triacanthos (honeylocust), Sambucus (elderberry), Salix nigra (black willow) (Wallace 2014).
Behavior: To listen to the male courtship call for this genus, listen here. These courtship calls are not audible to the human ear, and the calls here are produced by recording the substrate vibrations that the treehoppers use to communicate through the plants themselves. The recorded call is then amplified so that it is now audible to human ears. Research has shown that treehoppers use vibrations to attract mates, to announce the discovery of a good feeding site, or to alert a defending mother to the approach of a predator (T.IM).
Comment: Can be attracted at night with a light. A single Black Locust may serve as a host for up to 500 or more individual T. bimaculata's. Eggs are laid near the ground in slits in the bark. It takes about a month from hatching for a nymph to mature to adulthood. Nymphs gradually move up the trunk as they mature. The treehoppers cause little damage to the host plant. (BG)

This species is often times guarded or tended by ants. While both adults and nymphs are tended by ants, a benefit of this ant-hopper mutualism is only seen in nymphs. Nymphs secrete honeydew, sugary waste from feeding on the phloem of plants, which the ants use as a food resource. Ants stroke the nymphs with their antennae to cause greater quantities of this secretion. Ants will defend the nymphs from any predators by voraciously biting. Ant species that are involved in this mutualism include: Formica obscuriventris, Formica exsectoides, Camponotus pennsylvanicus, Crematogaster lineolata, and Prenolepis imparis. (ADW)

A mite in the family Erythraeidae has frequently been found parasitizing adults (per studies in Missouri). These bright red mites attach themselves to various parts of the pronotum. (Kopp & Yonke, 1974)

The only species that could be confused with T. bimaculata is the other member of this genus, T. uhleri. This rare species has yet to be recorded in North Carolina, but has been found across the state border in Tennessee, as well as Virginia and Maryland; see here and here. This species, whose host plant is American [wild] plum (Prunus americana), has a forward-facing horn, rather than one that is angled upward, and is also a dark brown color, lacking the yellow stripes/striations of T. bimaculata. This rare species should be searched for in the mountains. The horn is possibly convergent evolution between these two species and they are likely not closely related (M. Wallace pers. comment).

Status: Native
Global and State Rank:

Species Photo Gallery for Thelia bimaculata Locust Treehopper

Photo by: Ted Wilcox
Watauga Co.
Comment: unid_treehopper
Photo by: Ted Wilcox
Watauga Co.
Comment: unid_treehopper
Photo by: Ted Wilcox
Watauga Co.
Comment: unid_treehopper
Photo by: Rob Van Epps
Iredell Co.
Comment: On Black Locust.
Photo by: Ed Kelley
Haywood Co.
Photo by: Ed Kelley
Haywood Co.
Photo by: vin stanton
Buncombe Co.
Photo by: Matthew S. Wallace
Out Of State Co.
Comment: male
Photo by: Kyle Kittelberger, Brian Bockhahn, Paul Scharf
Ashe Co.
Comment: mixed hardwood forest edge; a nymph
Photo by: Paul Scharf, Kyle Kittleberger, Brian Bockhahn
Ashe Co.
Comment: Female
Photo by: Kyle Kittelberger, Brian Bockhahn, Paul Scharf
Ashe Co.
Comment: mixed hardwood forest edge
Photo by: Kyle Kittelberger, Brian Bockhahn, Paul Scharf
Ashe Co.
Comment: brushy, shrubby edge habitat