Helmet-wearing treehoppers are the weirdest insects around

Illustration for article titled Helmet-wearing treehoppers are the weirdest insects around

All winged insects look more or less the same: a main thorax that's split into three segments, two legs on each segment, and four wings. But there's one exception, and it's spectacularly weird. Meet the massive "helmets" of treehopper insects.


In normal winged insects, those four wings are found on the rear two segments of the thorax. With treehoppers, the "helmet" - which can often be larger than the entire rest of the insect's body - is found on the first segment of the thorax. Discovered by Benjamin Prud'homme and his research team at the National Center of Scientific Research in Marseilles, France, these helmets are actually highly specialized wings, essentially giving these insects an extra pair.

There's an awesome gallery of these weird insects over at New Scientist, which we definitely recommend checking out. but I wanted to give a special mention to the insect you see up top. Most of the other insects have helmets that look like giant fins, but Cyphonia has something very different.


In one of the most ridiculously awesome examples of evolutionary mimicry, its helmet has evolved to look just like an aggressive ant species, which means anyone looking at it from above will see not a harmless treehopper but instead a seriously pissed off ant. For Cyphonia, it's more than a worthwhile trade-off for having to spend your entire life looking like you're headed to an insect costume party.

Nature via New Scientist.

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" two legs on each segment,"

Really? Two legs on each segment?

So insects have legs coming out of their heads?

No, all six legs from from the thorax.