How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Spittlebugs

Spittlebugs occur throughout the U.S. and can at least occasionally be found on almost any plant.

Identification

Adult spittlebugs are inconspicuous, often greenish or brownish insects, about 1/4 inch long. Adult spittlebugs look like leafhoppers and readily jump or fly when disturbed. Immature spittlebugs are recognized by the frothy white mass that nymphs surround themselves with on plant tissue where they feed.

Life cycle

Adult 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. More than one nymph may be found in a single spittle mass.

Damage

Spittlebugs suck plant juices. Heavy infestations may distort plant tissue and slow plant growth. The obvious and occasionally abundant masses of white foam on cones, foliage, or stems may be unsightly, but spittlebugs do not seriously harm established woody plants.

Solutions

Spittlebugs can be tolerated; they do not usually cause significant damage. Handpick or wash off with water. Spittlebugs are more likely to become abundant on woody plants when they migrate from nearby herbaceous species. Cut weeds or wash spittlebugs off these alternate hosts in the spring, before the insects mature and can spread.

Adult spittlebug
Adult spittlebug

Frothy material hides immature spittlebugs
Frothy material hides immature spittlebugs

Spittlebug eggs on rosemary
Spittlebug eggs on rosemary


Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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