Spittlebug Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Spittlebugs

Spittlebugs are part of the Cercopidae family. It is an insect with more than 23,000 species. They form a strange foam on their host plant, which is their most obvious sign of presence. They are named after the spittle-like froth that they produce. They can make your plants unattractive. The good news is that with the right knowledge on how to get rid of spittlebugs, it will be easy for you to deal with the problem.

Spittlebugs are also known as froghoppers. They create a foam in their body, which looks like a spittle. When they feed on plants, they take out the sap of their hosts. In turn, they release it from their back and this is the foam that provides them protection from extreme temperature and their predators. They also use it for hydration. The production of foam, however, is exclusive only to nymphs or young spittlebugs. It takes approximately one month for a nymph to fully transition into an adult. When they are eggs, meanwhile, their overwintering site is leaf litter.

One of their most common physical characteristics is the strong hind legs, which they use to easily jump. The color of spittlebugs can be anywhere from brown to black. Some species have noticeable two yellow lines on their back. On average, the length of an adult spittlebug will be 1/3 inch. In terms of the external environment, they thrive in places that are humid and moist.

Spittlebug Surrounded

Macro of a Spittlebug Surrounded in Spittle on a Green Leaf

Spittlebug’s Habitat

The habitat of spittlebugs can be widespread. Aside from the garden, they are also present in meadows, farmlands, and parks. Basically, they can survive in any place where plants grow, providing them with a stable supply of food. The eggs start in the leaf litter. When they hatch as nymphs, they will feed on the upper parts of the plant, preparing young tissues or tender foliage. More often than not, they are hard to spot because of the foam that they use as a covering for the body.

Identifying Spittlebug’s Damage

Plants Affected

Ornamental grasses and herbaceous plants are some of the most common hosts for spittlebugs. To be specific, you can find them in strawberries, roses, chrysanthemums, morning glory, Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, clover, and asters, among others.

Symptoms

Unsure if spittlebugs are causing cosmetic damages on your plants? Below are some of the signs that you should watch out for:

  • The appearance of foam is the easiest way to spot spittlebugs. However, this is only for nymphs. When they are already adults, they stop the production of foam. They become quick and mobile, making it more challenging to find them in the garden.
  • The first signs of damage will not be easily evident on the surface of the host plant. With this, check the underside of a leaf. There will be a pale mottling, which is a result of feeding on the sap of the leaves.
  • They will also cause distortions on the leaves. Nonetheless, this may not be as severe as with what you can expect from other common garden pests.
  • Pay attention to the color of the grass as well. The feeding of spittlebug will make it turn yellowish. Eventually, it will wilt and die.

Results of Infestation

In most instances, the feeding of spittlebugs on plants will lead to damages that are purely cosmetic. They will cause unattractive appearance of the leaves and the fruit. If the infestation is severe or if there is high population of the spittlebugs, they can lead to stunting. They can also make the fruits of berries smaller than normal. Other than this, there are no serious damages that you can expect from spittlebugs. They also do not cause significant economic losses.

Spittlebug on Coyote Bush

Spittlebugs Causes Unattractive Appearance of Leaves

How to Get Rid of Spittlebugs

Natural and Organic Solutions

Below is a quick look at some of the best solutions that can prove to be effective in the prevention and elimination of spittlebugs:

  • Garden sanitation is one of the simplest solutions to the problem. Get rid of leaf litter or any decaying vegetation. They will provide overwintering spots for the eggs. If there is no suitable habitat, it will be less likely that the spittlebugs will be an issue in your garden.
  • If you can see the spittlebugs, physical removal will help. It will be good to exclude them while they are still eggs or nymphs. When they transform into adults, they will be quick movers and removing them will be hard. After removing, throw them in a bucket of soapy water.
  • The removal of weeds in the garden will also help. There are weeds that can be susceptible to spittlebugs. Plus, it is one of their major food sources. If there is nothing to eat, they will not stay in your garden.
  • Rather than using pesticides with toxic chemicals, you can make an organic spray to kill spittlebugs. Combine garlic, hot pepper, liquid soap, and water. You will have an instant natural spray that will be effective in deterring the presence of spittlebugs.
  • If you are looking for natural insect repellents, neem oil can also be a good choice. It is made from an essential oil that will form a protective barrier on plants to keep the pesky spittlebugs away.
  • You can also consider using row covers. This will protect the plants from the pest. However, take note that you have to remove the cover in time for pollination. Nets will also make a great choice for cover because it encourages penetration of natural light.

Chemical Solutions

Chemicals have a bad reputation when it comes to pest control. They contain harsh ingredients, which make them toxic to humans and pests. With this, the use of chemicals should be your last resort. Use this only if the population is too large and difficult to control with the use of natural methods.

Some of the active ingredients in the chemicals for the treatment of spittlebugs include cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, deltamethrin, and lambda-cyhalothrin. They are available in a wide array of trade names. Regardless of which one you choose, be sure to follow the instructions from the manufacturer regarding its proper application. To add, in some cases, repeat application will be necessary.

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