Text and photos by Paula Dittrick, TMNCPC blogmaster
The sight of frothy bubbles on a plant surprised me. Without knowing anything about it, I declared it spittle. That label turned out to be appropriate.
The Spittlebug (Cercopidae) nymph creates a cluster of froth where the nymph conceals itself on a plant. The froth is a secretion, but it is not really spittle. Nymphs produce liquid secretions from their hind ends.
Other curious insect happenings on plants are galls and leaf miners, but these are different than spittlebugs.
Spittlebug nymphs move their bodies to turn the liquid secretion into bubbles. After the formation of bubbles, spittlebugs use their hind legs to cover themselves.
Research indicates the spittle shields the bugs from predators, insulates them from extreme temperatures, and keeps the bugs from dehydrating. Spittlebugs can be found on a variety of plants.
Spittlebug nymphs, wingless and green, are hard to see or find inside the spittle. They feed on plant sap, but plant damage typically is minimal unless the bug population is large. Plant owners can spray water from a hose to dislodge the spittle.