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Spittlebug

Spittlebugs are present throughout the entire state, but they are more abundant in northern and northwestern Florida. They attack all turfgrass species, but centipedegrass is the most susceptible. Adults also feed on ornamental plants, especially hollies (Ilex cassine or I. opaca).

Damage

Both adults and nymphs suck juices from the grass with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. They remove a lot of fluid from the plants so they can be surrounded by the frothy spittle mass.

Identification

Adult twolined spittlebugs, Prosapia bicincta (Say), are black with red eyes and legs and have two orange stripes across their wings. They are about 1/4 inch long. The nymphs are yellow or creamy in color with a brown head. They are surrounded by a mass of white frothy spittle that they excrete for protection. Adults are most active in early morning and hide near the soil surface during the heat of the day.

Life Cycle

There are usually two to three generations per year. The life cycle requires about 2 1/2 months. Eggs are laid at the base of the grass in the thatch, in hollow grass stems, or behind the leaf sheaths. Eggs laid by the second generation overwinter and hatch the following spring, usually from late March to late April. First generation adults are abundant in June. The adult population may peak again in August or September.

Chemical Control

To minimize grass injury, chemical control may be required when spittlebug populations are heavy. Be careful not to use a product labeled only for ornamental use against spittlebugs in grass. To improve control, mow and dispose of clippings before an insecticide is applied. Irrigating before treatment, or increasing the amount of water used in the spray solution will improve control. Granular formulations may not be as effective as liquids. It is best to monitor or apply insecticides late in the day when nymphs are higher on the plants than during the hot midday. Adult spittlebugs are usually more successfully controlled than nymphs, but may be on ornamental plants in addition to being in the turfgrass. The nymphs are protected by the spittle masses.