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Spittle Bug Season

Spittle Bugs in the Ninebark Buds

Spittle Bugs in the Ninebark Buds

April is the start of spittle bug season in our garden. Spittle bugs are the little froghopper nymphs putting drips of saliva on a lot of our plants, a weird thing which I don’t particularly like, but find kind of intriguing. Apparently, the nymphs suck out the water in the xylem of the stems (as opposed to the more nutrient-rich phloem that their aphid relatives and most other sucking insects prefer), and they need to process a lot of watery stuff from the xylem to get enough nutrients; at some point these unappealing spittle cocoons evolved as a protective byproduct of all that excess water.

The nymphs like new growth and especially bloom stalks, and as April is our biggest month for bloom stalks and new growth, April is also our biggest month for spittle bugs. As I understand it, the small orange nymphs are young nymphs, the yellow ones are older, and the larger greenish ones are in the last phase before they morph into adults. Most of ours are orange right now. We’ll have the nymphs for a month or two, and then later we’ll get the hoppy adults. Neither one seems to affect the plants much.

Close ups of spittle and a butterfly are below. (more…)