Friday, June 11, 2010


There have been several calls this week about spittlebugs on Leyland cypress trees. Callers describe the problem as small foamy masses dotting their trees. However, some callers just call it spit or spittle, thus the common name of the bug.

Long story short, don't worry about them. They will not harm Leylands or most other plants. There is no need to treat Leyland cypress for spittlebugs. Sometimes these bugs will feed on grapevines. Again there is no need to treat. If you do not like the spittle masses, just use a water hose to wash the spittle away.

The foamy spittle is produced by the nymphal stage of the two-lined spittlebug. The insect makes the foamy mass by excreting honey dew and mixing it with air. This provides the developing nymph with an almost aquatic environment in which to develop. The spittle also offers some protection from predators. This nymphal stage lasts about a month.
In July, the nymphs will transform into adults. The adults look similar to leaf hoppers, about 1/3 of an inch long. They are black in color with two small red lines and red eyes. After the adults mate, the females will lay eggs. These will hatch next spring, starting the cycle over again.

Again, it is very unlikely we will ever need to treat spittlebugs in Caldwell County with pesticides, but in eastern North Carolina treatment is sometimes necessary. These bugs can be a problem on warm season grasses and ornamental hollies. If you read on the Internet about spittlebugs, and they suggest treatment, it is appropriate in some locations.

If you have lawn and garden questions, please contact me at the Caldwell County Extension Center, 757 1290, send me an email (, or stop by the office.

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