University of Maryland Extension

Spittlebugs - Trees and Shrubs

Back to Common Problems - Trees and Shrubs

spittlebug nyhmps
Spittlebugs on stem

Spittlebugs are sucking insects that feed on various trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials. The adults are froghoppers, 1/4-1/-2 inch long, dull colored, broadly oval, with prominent eyes. Most noticeable are the nymphs (immatures) which are covered with a white frothy material. The nymphs are smaller than the adults, and usually a pale greenish-yellow. Both the adults and nymphs suck plant sap from the twigs of host plants. Some species appear to have a toxin that destroys plant tissue, causing leaf stunting, distortion, and twig dieback.

Pine spittlebug is indicated by frothy masses of spittle on the twigs of pine in May and June. Nymphs or the immature spittlebugs are found beneath the spittle. They are black with whitish abdomens. Adults are about  1/4 inch long and tan with 2 irregular, whitish bands on each wing. They may be found feeding in the same location as the nymphs in July and August. The pine spittlebug sucks sap from the twigs. Scotch pine is its preferred host but it may also be found on pitch, Eastern white, Virginia, Jack, slash, loblolly, Japanese, and Mugo pines.

To monitor for this insect look for the white spittle masses on the terminal twigs of host plants from April through June (in Maryland). The adults are present from July through September.

immature spittlebug
Spittlebug nymph

closeup of spittle
Spittle mass

closeup of spittlebugs
Spittlebugs on a pine

Management

In light infestations, manually destroy nymphs in spittle. Heavy infestations in successive years may kill Scotch/Scots pine. When needed, spray the spittle masses with a contact insecticide in May.

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