Saturday, June 7, 2014

Spit it out!

A few days ago I was walking around my yard, checking on how things were doing. I have been working many, many hours as of late, so it is a real pleasure to be able to tour the yard. Seeing all the new growth, fruit being produced, and things just thriving, really makes me feel good. I am trying to ignore the fact that deer ALSO apparently have been touring the yard and enjoying the fruits of my labor! That is another story.
Of course, I have some of the same normal problems that any other gardener has, the aphids, some scale, even a small case of dieback on one of my camellias. Nothing new that I can't easily take care of. The blessed deer however!! Sorry, I digress.
I did spot a problem that I had not seen in quite some time, and if you don't know what it is at first, it may gross you out.

Ever come across this in your yard?
No, the neighborhood kids probably did not come by and hock a loogey on your plant, though in some neighborhoods you never know.
Nope, this is caused by one of several species of Spittlebugs or Froghoppers.
Spittlebugs occur throughout the United States. About 850 species of spittlebugs are known worldwide, and 23 species are distributed throughout North America. They can, at least occasionally, be found on almost any plant. They are closely related to aphids.The adults are usually inconspicuous, often greenish or brownish insects, depending on the species. Immature spittlebugs are recognized by the frothy white mass that the nymphs surround themselves with on plant tissue where they feed.
Like aphids, spittlebugs suck plant juices. Heavy infestations distort plant tissue and slow plant growth. Light infestations usually have little effect on established woody plants. On your more herbaceous plants, they can suck the life right out of them. If ever there was a list of pests that are wasteful, spittlebugs would be at the top, because they feed in a rather unique way. Nymphs will huddle up close to one another and using their piercing mouthparts, puncture the plant stem on which they are feeding. Plant sap is then pumped out and through their bodies at an amazing rate. This pumping action extracts a lot of sap which then accumulates around the group of spittlebugs as they feed. Since the sap is thick and gooey, it clings to the spittlebugs and forms a type of sap or "spittle mass" in which the nymphs thrive. This moist, sap membrane is both a food supply and a place of safe harborage for the nymphs. Predatory birds are more likely to overlook nymphs encased in the spittle; the mass provides a damp environment for the young vulnerable bugs so they can easily endure even the hottest of days. 

The good news is, they are very easy to control. A strong spray of water from your hose will usually do the trick. Remember I said the froth protects them? Wash it away and there goes their protection.
The life cycle is rather simple,  Females lay small eggs in rows in hidden parts of the plant, such as the sheath between leaves and stems. Nymphs undergo about five molts, and may be orange, yellow, or green. There are many nymphs to be found in a spittle mass.
The most common spittlebug found around here is the  'Prosapia bicincta' or the Two-lined spittlebug. They look like this:

 As I mentioned above there are other species out there. The Native Meadow Spittlebug, Native Pine Spittlebug and the Dogwood Spittlebug, just to name a few. 
This is one of those pests that can do some damage, small infestations are not much of a problem, and they are easy to control. If you want to know what kind of spittlebug you have, first figure out what they are on, there is probably a spittle for that.
Hopefully this has been a fun little read on a pest that is actually a disgusting habit that many people have. 
If you have any comments, questions or something from any of my articles that you would like some more info on, my e-mail is:
Just spit it out already!
Happy Growing!


  1. Ahaha Thank you! I was wondering what this was as I was working around the garden last evening and kept thinking my husband was spitting everywhere. LOL

  2. LOL,
    I am glad I could get your husband off the hook!