Spittlebugs becoming common Ga. pest

September 11, 2013 

Here in the extension office we have been receiving numerous calls about white, frothy mass in the grass. This mass is spittle from a spittlebug.

The two-lined spittlebug is becoming an increasingly common pest in Georgia. They are a black/brown oval shaped insect and are about a quarter-inch long with two reddish-orange strips across its wings. The nymphs resemble wingless adults but are ivory in color and have a brown head.

Both adults and nymphs feed on stem juices using their piercing mouth parts. They inject a toxin into the plant causing the grass to yellow, wither and die if it goes untreated. The damage is similar to chinch bug damage but is more widespread because the spittlebug is more mobile.

Spittlebugs prefer centipede but will feed on other warm-season grasses. They also feed on woody ornamentals, especially hollies, asters and morning glories.

Spittlebugs overwinter as eggs in the plant stem, under leaf sheaths or in plant debris. In March or April, the first generation of nymphs hatches and begins feeding.

The second generation matures in August and September. The spittle you see is a protective layer for the nymphs from natural enemies and drying out. There can be one or more nymphs living in a spittle mass. Adults live for about three weeks and start laying at two weeks of age. The eggs are orange in color and can take two weeks to hatch in the summer. Nymphs feed about a month before they become adults.

Nymphs are easiest to detect. You will want to look for the spittle mass on the grass stem near the soil surface. Adults fly and can be flushed from the grass.

Since nymphs need high humidity to survive, remove thatch buildup. Thatch buildup increases these conditions. Overwatering can also produce favorable conditions for nymphs.

There are various insecticides available for use on spittlebugs in turf and ornamental plants. You will want to time your spraying during heavy infestations. Before spraying the insecticide, cut grass to recommended height, remove clippings and water the grass. You will want to do this several hours before applying the insecticide. Also apply the treatment late in the day. Follow the instructions on the label to determine the amount to apply.

For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or drop by our office in the old courthouse, downtown Perry, 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit our website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston for more news about your local Extension office.

Dates to remember

Sept. 13: Entry deadline for 4-H competitions in Georgia National Fair

Sept. 19: Show CAES UGA Southwest-UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center. Registration ends Sept. 12. Contact the Office of Academic Programs, 229-386-3528

Sept. 24: Show CAES UGA Southwest-UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center. Registration ends Sept. 17. Contact the Office of Academic Programs, 229-386-3528

Oct. 3-13: Georgia National Fair, Perry-Ask a Master Gardener Booth in Heritage Hall, demonstrations daily

Oct. 9: Walk Georgia registration ends

Oct. 15-17: Sunbelt Ag Expo, Moultrie-www.sunbeltexpo.com

Charlotte Mote is the Houston County agricultural and natural resources agent. Contact her at 478-987-2028 or cmote1@uga.edu.

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