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Spittlebugs are small garden insects related to leafhoppers. They are members of the Cercopidae family of insects.
Spittle bugs are seldom seen. But a tell-tale sign of spittlebugs presence is easy to see around your yard, garden and lawn.
In this article, we describe one of the “bad garden bugs” the spittlebug and its effect on plants.
We also share advice on keeping your yard and garden spittle bug free. Read on to learn more.
What Do Spittle Bugs Look Like?
The bugs look like large, winged leaf hoppers and measure between an eighth and a quarter of an inch in length.
Their heads have a rather frog like appearance, and are often called “frog hoppers.”
What Do “Froghoppers” Do?
In springtime, adult froghopper bugs lay eggs in rows. The eggs “hide” in areas between the stems, where the leaf attaches and the sheaves of plants and grasses.
The eggs are usually located very close to the surface of the soil.
Before winter female spittlebugs may also lay eggs in the debris of old plants.
The eggs hatch into yellow nymphs. Gradually the nymphs turn green and move through five instars to become adult bugs.
Spit bug nymphs create nests of a white foamy substance. The foam looks like spit or soap suds on the stems of plants.
The nymphs hide inside of this protective covering foam covering as they go through five instars to grow into mature insects.
What Is Spittlebug Foam Made Of?
The spit foam making up the nest is what earned them the name “spittlebugs” (not spiddlebugs).
This foam is not actually spit, though. It is a combination of excretions from the insects’ elementary canals (back ends) and air.
The spittlebug nymphs build up a pile of bubbles in a protected place on a plant where the branches meet. They then use their hind legs to conceal themselves within the foam.
This foamy home protects spittlebug nymphs from extremes in temperature, dehydration and predators.
What Do Spittle Bugs Eat?
Both spittlebug adults and nymphs have piercing, sucking mouthparts. They use these to suck plant juices.
Some of their favorite plants include:
- Rose Bushes
- Nursery Stock
- Legume Forage Crops
Intense spittlebug infestation can cause dwarfing, stunting and loss of plant vitality. Luckily, intense spittle bug infestation is very rare.
Spittle bugs leave unattractive looking piles of spit all around the garden. Many gardeners find this unsightly.
How Do You Get Rid of Spittlebugs?
Spray small infestations, of spittle bug spit with a strong blast from a hose. The spray will disrupt their activities and reduce their numbers.
With large spittlebug infestations, apply insecticidal soap sprays, neem oil solutions or pesticides.
What Pesticides Work Best Against Spittlebugs?
Using pesticides is not always necessary when controlling spittlebugs. It is easy to pick them off by hand, blast them with the hose or use a natural, homemade repellent and bug killer.
Here’s a quick and easy recipe using garlic and peppers. It is sure to discourage even the most intrepid spittlebug.
Spittlebug Insect Control With A Homemade Organic Insect Spray
- 1/2 cup of diced hot peppers
- 6 peeled garlic cloves
- 2 cups of water
- 2 teaspoons plain liquid dish soap
Put the entire mixture in a blender and blend until smooth. Put the mixture into a jar with a lid and set it aside. Allow the mixture to “brew” undisturbed for a full 24 hours.
After 24 hours, strain the mixture through a fine strainer and decant it into a spray bottle.
Add 2 teaspoons of plain liquid dish soap. We use Dr. Bronner’s organic Castile soap.
Shake the spray before each use, and spray spittlebug nests directly. It is also effective on a wide variety of other insect pests.
Prevention Is An Important Aspect Of Spittlebug Control
In autumn, clean up your garden to prevent re-infestation next coming growing season.
The clean up will prevent any eggs hiding in garden debris from hatching in the springtime. This will reduce or drop your spittlebug population.