Managing the Twolined Spittlebug in the Home Landscape
Nymphs resemble the adults, but are smaller and lack wings. Nymphs are yellow, white or orange, but have red eyes and brown heads. The most unusual characteristic of this stage is the spittlemass. The white, frothy spittlemass envelopes the nymph and provides protection from desiccation and predators.
The nymphs feed for about one month before they become adults. Approximately two months are required to complete the life cycle. Eggs require two weeks to hatch during the summer. Adults are one to two weeks old before they begin laying eggs. There are at least two generations per year.
The needlelike mouthparts do little damage, but the fluid removal leads to weakened, stressed grass that may turn yellow and then brown. Severe infestations can even kill the turfgrass. In addition to feeding damage, the spittlemasses themselves can become a nuisance and can give the turf an unsightly appearance. Heavy infestations of two-lined spittlebugs can produce so much spittle that the lawn actually squishes when walked upon.
On shrubs in late summer and early fall, adult two-lined spittlebugs fly to hollies (and other plants) to feed. Their feeding causes holly leaves to become splotchy and yellow and to drop prematurely. Laboratory assays in Georgia by S.K. Braman and J. Ruter confirmed the susceptibility of cultivars with I. cassine or I. opaca parentage. Severe damage was seen in 'Savannah', 'Carolina #2', 'Eagleston', 'East Palatka', 'Foster #2', and 'W.J. Bean', I. cassine (redfruit), I.cassine (yellow fruit), and I. integra x rugosa. Cultivars in the lab assay with no damage included 'Shamrock', Winter Red', 'Burford', 'Wetumpka', Warrens Red', and 'Kathy Anne Batson'.
The only accurate way to assess the need to treat is to search through the turf down near the soil line and actually find the spittlebugs. This requires some time and effort. The turfgrass must be examined closely by parting the grass and looking for the spittlemasses that surround the nymphs. After control is obtained, the area should be periodically rechecked Reinfestation can occur quickly since the two-lined spittlebug has at least two generations per year in this state.
The best time to check for nymphs and to apply pesticides to turfgrasses is late in the day because the nymphs are higher on the plants than during the hot midday.
Numerous insecticides are labeled to control spittlebugs on turf and if properly applied, most perform well. Good coverage is essential. Granular formulations are not as effective as spray formulations. Be sure to read and follow all label directions.
Recommendations for insecticides approved for control of these insects in home
lawns can be found under Leafhoppers and Spittlebugs in Insect
Control in Home Lawns section of the NC Agricultural Chemicals Manual.
Recommendations for insecticides approved for use on sod farms, golf courses or other commercial sites can be found in Commercial Turf Insect Control section of the NC Agricultural Chemicals Manual.
Chemical insecticides approved for spittlebug control on trees and shrubs may contain compounds such as permethrin, bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, imidicloprid, carbaryl, acephate and others. Check the label of your tree and shrub products for any of these active ingredients.
Recommendations of specific chemicals are based upon information on the manufacturer's label and performance in a limited number of trials. Because environmental conditions and methods of application by growers may vary widely, performance of the chemical will not always conform to the safety and pest control standards indicated by experimental data.
Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage and examine a current product label before applying any chemical.
For assistance, contact your county North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service agent.
Prepared by R. L. Brandenburg, S. Bambara and J. R. Baker, Extension Entomologists
ENT/ort-97 June 1994 (Revised) April 2002
Web page last reviewed January, 2011 by webperson.
© 2001 NC Cooperative Extension Service