Don't Spittle on Me

Spittlebugs, also called froghoppers, have been numerous the last several years. Probably everyone has seen one, but may not have known it. Spittlebugs form masses of sticky, frothy bubbles on leaf nodes (points where leaves join the stem). The blob of foam may have tricked you into thinking that someone spit onto the plant (maybe you blamed your kids for spitting into the flower beds or shrubbery?). The immature insect lives inside its spittle mass. Wipe away the foam to see the small (1/4 inch) frog-looking insect inside. The spittle provides protection from predators, desiccation, and temperature extremes. When they molt into an adult, they depart their protective spittle blob.

Juniper, arborvitae, pine, clover, strawberry, weeds, and many herbaceous plants are common hosts for spittlebugs.

Economic harm to the plants is uncommon. The best treatment is to apply a stiff spray of water from your hose to wash away the spittle and leave the bug to dry out or become prey for a hungry predator.

For additional information on spittlebugs and their control, read fact sheets by the University of Wisconsin and North Carolina State University.

-Diane Alston, Entomologist