Spittlebugs: You Don't Say
Well, a new word in my vocabulary; spittlebug. During our recent walk with Bob here at the centre, he pointed out a whitish, foamy substance attached to the stem of goldenrod. Inside this frothy mass were spittlebugs, nymphs, known as froghoppers, belonging to the Cercopidae family.
The eggs live in leaf and plant debris over the winter and the nymphs hatch in April/May, attaching themselves to a plant and begin feeding. They pierce the stem and suck plant fluids, drinking enormous amounts in order to get the nutrients they require. So with all that drinking, the spittlebug produces a lot of waste. These excess fluids from its anus flow down over the body. (Oh, did I mention that the spittlebug rests with its head facing downward.) A sticky substance is secreted from the abdominal glands and with the hind parts, the spittlebug whips air into the fluids and sticky substance and creates the foam or spittle that we see on the stem.
This foam acts as a protective shelter from predators, it prevents them from drying out and it insulates them from extreme temperatures. The unfolding of nature is always amazing!
2 foamy masses on stems of plants
The nymphs mature in approximately 5-8 weeks. They create one large bubble of spittle and undergo a transformation, molting into the adult form; a Froghopper, a small insect with a hard exoskeleton. They hop like a frog and are often mistaken for a Leafhopper. They make their way to pastures and grassy areas and are most active during the warm summer and early autumn months. They have very long hind legs that are only used when jumping.
In September/October the females lay clusters of eggs in the leaf and plant debris and the cycle of nature and life continues.
So now when you see foamy bubbles on the stems of plants, you'll know you are looking at spittle protecting a spittlebug.