Spit Bugs

Spit bugs (spittle bugs) measure around 12mm long. Spit bug nymphs are smaller and produce a frothy white ‘spit’ to enclose themselves in.

Adult Spit Bug Adult Spit Bug Diagram
Adult Spit Bug-Auburn University (left), Adult diagram-photo D.E. Short (right)

Adult spit bugs are shaped like small frogs and can hop hence being dubbed froghoppers. They are usually brown in colour but can be green in many parts of Canada. Their eggs are small and white and laid in rows.

Spit Bug Habitat
They are most prevalent in grassy fields found all over North America. They prefer grassy areas but will attack most plants.

Spit-Bug Nymph Green Spit Bug Nymph
Nymph-Michigan State University (left), Green Nymph-Auburn University (right)

Spit bugs overwinter as eggs in stems and garden debris. The eggs need high humidity to hatch so they will hatch quite early in the south. The nymphs climb up the stems and cover themselves with a protective spit. Female spit bugs lay their eggs again in the summer and the cycle begins again.

Diet and Damage
Spit bugs feed on mostly on grass but many ornamentals, flowers, peas, strawberries, alfalfa, shrubs and trees can be affected. Grass turns brown and dies. Plants become deformed. They appear in mass numbers in June and through to September. Adults can cause just as much damage as the nymphs. Adult spit bugs feed mostly in the early mornings and hide in the heat of the day.

Controlling spit bugs:

  1. Use Liquid Rotenone/Pyrethrin Pyola Insect Spray
    Insecticidal Soap Spray also works rather well on spit bug nymphs. Destroy them before they become adults! Be careful with Pyola… although it is a natural organic pesticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers, it is what is known as a “broad spectrum” pesticide and will also kill beneficial insects as well. It simultaneously attacks adult insects, larvae and eggs and can be used as a dormant or growing season spray.
  2. Water Spray
    A strong spay of water on shrubs and ornamentals will control spit bugs as they don’t inflict much damage on mature plants.
  3. Hand Pick (wear gloves)
    Where you see a mass of spittle you know there is a bug. Remove the bugs and drop them in alcohol.
  4. Dethatch Your Lawn
    In the spring dethatch and fertilize your lawn. This should keep your spit bug population down to a minimum as they need moist humid conditions to survive.
  5. Dormant Oil Spray
    Apply the spray in the fall… and this will prevent any overwintering spit bug eggs from hatching.

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  1. Karen says

    I don’t think you should put them in the compost bin. I think they lay their eggs in decaying plant matter.

  2. Wardogzzz says

    Damn the Homoptera: Cercopidae!I just noticed these on our lavender plant. One plant had a sever die off and the other is doing fine. I went through and pinched all of the stems that had spittle on them and threw it in the compost bin. This was the first year I didn’t spray during the fall with dormant oil spray and now am paying the price for it.

  3. Dejra says

    To Baker, I spray them off but I suppose they don’t die but go to a different plant. I live in ne WA. May have to resort to some oil spray in the winter for next year.

  4. baker says

    i have one of those spit balls on some lavnder plant
    i no i should get it off how do i do that cuz its gross
    and is any one havin trouble with some twisted willow trees
    part of the tree is dieing live in WA state

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