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June 15, 2005

Meadow spittlebugs are being found in small numbers, particularly in northern Illinois. These appear as a mass of white spittle about 1/4 to 1/2 inch across in the leaf axil of ornamental grasses, arborvitae, roses, other rose family plants such as brambles, and other plants. Brushing away the spittle reveals a green, oval insect 1/8 to 1/4 inch long. The spittle is produced by glands associated with the anus and is spread over the body by the insectís legs.

They feed by sucking out the sap of the plant but are rarely numerous to cause serious damage. At least two or three per foot of stem would be needed to cause any level of concern. If clients are concerned about them, forceful sprays of water can wash away the spittle and commonly dislodge the insect.

Pine spittlebugs are more common in some years and are found in heaviest numbers in northern Illinois. We have received scattered reports of small numbers this spring. They are found primarily on Scotch pine but are also found on other pines and Norway spruce. The spittle and nymph looks like that of meadow spittlebug, but the insect underneath is brown instead of green. If one peels back the bark in pine spittlebug feeding areas, brown spots are seen where each bug was feeding. High numbers of bugs cause enough necrosis to cause branch dieback or the death of Scotch pines. Forceful sprays of carbaryl (Sevin) may be necessary knock off the spittle and control pine spittlebug.

Author: Phil Nixon


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