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Past Articles Library | Organic Pest Control | Spittlebug


(Philaenus spumarius)

Spittlebugs produce masses of frothy "spittle" on stems and feed inside the white foam. The rapid-moving adult is known as a froghopper. Spittlebug nymphs suck plant juices like aphids, but they remove so much water and carbohydrates that excess fluid is produced. They cover themselves with this fluid and then produce the spittle by bubbling air from the tip of the abdomen into the liquid. The spittle mass helps protect the nymphs from drying and predators.



Adults are oval, frog-faced, and 1/4 to 1/2 inch (6 to 10 mm) long. They are tan, mottled brown, or black and are similar to leafhoppers in appearance but stouter, with sharp spines on the hind legs. Adults are very active and jump when disturbed. Nymphs are yellow to yellow-green in color, look similar to adults but are wingless, and can be found inside the foamy mass of "spittle." Eggs are white to beige in color.



Overwintering eggs hatch in mid-April, and nymphs develop for 6-7 weeks in masses of spittle on plant stems. Adults feed all summer and start to lay overwintering eggs in rows on stems or stubble by early fall, around September.




Strawberry, legume forage crops such as clover and alfalfa, many ornamental and nursery plants including junipers and pine trees.




Spittlebug are rarely a serious problem in home gardens simply causing an unsightly mess. In crop plants however, adults and nymphs suck plant juices, causing stunted, dwarfed, and weakened plants with reduced yields. Adults migrate in large numbers from hay fields to nearby crops when hay is cut; this is when home gardens can be suddenly infested.




Cover garden plants with floating row covers when nearby hay fields are cut.


  • If you had high numbers of nymphs in th summer, then till under stubble of forage legumes in the fall to kill overwintering eggs

  • For home gardeners, simply spraying off the plants with a strong stream of water will do the trick.


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