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Spittlebugs

Two-lined spittlebug nymphs may be yellow, orange, or white, and are covered by a frothy mass of spittle. Adults are about 1/4" - 1/2" long, black with two reddish-orange lines across the wings. Their eyes are dark red.

Life Cycle

Spittlebugs occur throughout much of the state, but are more numerous in northern and northwestern Florida. Although they prefer centipedegrass, they will attack all turfgrass species, many crops and weeds, and ornamental plants, especially hollies. Eggs are laid at the base of the grass in the thatch, in hollow grass stems, or behind the leaf sheaths. One generation may last 2 to 2? months, and there are two generations per year. Eggs laid by the second generation overwinter and hatch the following spring, from late March to late April. The first generation adults are abundant in June. The adult population peaks again in early August to early September.

Monitoring

Most spittle masses are not obvious because they are located near the soil surface or in the thatch, but they may be more visible in the morning. Adults are most active during the early morning hours, but hide near the soil surface during the heat of the day. They often jump from the leaf surfaces if the turf is disturbed.

Damage

Nymphs and adults suck plant juices through their piercing-sucking mouthparts. Damage is primarily caused by adults, which inject a phytotoxic substance into the plants while feeding. Infested turf wilts, and the tips turn yellow, eventually brown, and then curl.

Control

Spittlebugs are rarely a problem on well-managed turf. They need high humidity for optimum development, and excess thatch provides good habitat. Follow approved practices regarding mowing, fertilization and irrigation to reduce thatch buildup, and dethatch if necessary. If greater control is needed, purchase an insecticide specifically labeled for spittlebugs. Mow, dispose of clippings, and irrigate before an insecticide is applied so the insecticide effectively reaches the thatch layer.