Twolined spittlebugs seem to be more common than usual this year, but this makes sense because cool, wet springs are especially favorable to spittlebugs. Spittlebug nymphs feed on grass stems where they produce a frothy mass of spittle, which protects them from desiccation and predators and also explains their name. Adults also feed on grass stems and leaves, and the saliva they inject when feeding can be toxic to the grass, resulting in yellowing leaves or even dead, brown patches of turf. Adults also occasionally cause damage to holly leaves.
Spittlebugs feed on many different grasses, including St. Augustine and Bermuda, but centipede lawns are particularly susceptible to damage. Centipede lawns that have been highly fertilized and well-watered, resulting in heavy thatch accumulation, are especially prone to infestations. These insects have two or three generations per year in the Deep South, and it is the second generation that most often causes damage. Homeowners with highly managed centipede lawns need to be especially alert for this pest for the remainder of the summer. Heavily infested turf may have a squishy feel when walked across, due to the large number of spittle masses. Spittle masses are usually deep in the turf, near the soil line.
Control: Cultural controls can reduce potential for infestations. Avoid excessive fertilizer, watering, mowing height, or thatch build-up. If necessary, control twolined spittle bugs by spraying with insecticides containing active ingredients such as bifenthrin, gamma-cyhalothrin, permethrin, or imidacloprid + cyfluthrin that are labeled specifically for use on turf grass. Sprays work better than granular treatments. Mow and water just before treatment to improve control.
See page 10 of Extension Publication 2331, Control of Insect Pests In and Around the Home Lawn, for more information on spittlebug control.
Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist, Mississippi State University Extension Service.
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