pine spittlebug

Spittlebugs on pine tree stem

Updated: April 21, 2021

Key points

  • 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 and stems of host plants.
  • Some species appear to have a toxin that destroys plant tissue, causing leaf stunting, distortion, and twig dieback.
  • 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.

How to identify

  • Frothy masses of spittle on the twigs of pine is noticeable 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.

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 when noticed.