Spittlebugs are numerous in northeastern Illinois on chrysanthemums, shasta daisies, roses, and pines. Meadow spittlebug commonly attacks deciduous plants, particularly clover, and many flowers, as well as arborvitae. Pine spittlebug attacks Scotch, Austrian, and white pines, spruces, and firs. The meadow spittlebug usually causes little damage, but the pine spittlebug requires control if it is numerous.
Both spittlebugs overwinter as eggs in the stems of plants. The hatching nymphs feed on stems and secrete a frothy liquid from the anus and the epidermal glands. The nymphs then spread this spittle over their body until they are entirely enclosed in what appears to be a glob of white spit. The nymphs take up to seven weeks to mature. If you remove the spittle, you can see that meadow spittlebug nymphs are green and pine spittlebug nymphs are brown. Both spittlebugs emerge as brownish adults that look like wide leafhoppers. They are about 3/8 inch long and elongate to oval in shape. Adult meadow spittlebugs vary in color, ranging from tan to dark brown and may have light stripes running along their sides. Pine spittlebug adults are either a mottled medium brown or dark reddish brown.
Both nymphs and adults feed on plant sap. However, in heavy infestations, the wounds caused by pine spittlebug feeding result in resinous deposits that can restrict sap flow. Pine spittlebug feeding sites also serve as an entrance point for Diplodia shoot blight. Meadow spittlebug is rarely numerous enough to cause damage. Most damage caused by meadow spittlebug is aesthetic, due to the presence of the spittle masses.
Pine spittlebug nymphs can be controlled with a forceful spray of acephate (Orthene), carbaryl (Sevin), or dimethoate (Cygon). Meadow spittlebug nymphs can be washed off of plants with forceful streams of water. In rare instances, acephate or carbaryl may be needed.