Spittlebugs … and what fascinating little bugs they are. They’re also called froghoppers.  The adults are 1/4 inch long and are tan, brown or black. The nymphs feed on plant sap where a leaf attaches to a branch or where 2 branches meet.

Spittlebug spittle

The first instar of the nymphs is orange, the second through fourth are yellow, and the fifth is pale green. I walked around the yard, seeing spittle mostly on a common tall (unwanted) grass and also on asters, goldenrods, bedstraw and phlox. Then I ended up at the right place at the right time to see spittle that got too heavy and start slipping.

Spittle starting to slip

Spittle slipped and exposed the nymph

Then I found another nymph that had lost most of its spittle. I took picture after picture, trying to capture the spittle “being made.” Apparently the nymph adds air to the sap to form the bubbles.

Nymph adding air to produce bubbles

I also found a cooperative, what is probably a fifth instar nymph, not entirely covered with spittle.

An almost-adult spittle bug

I learned from observation that the nymphs usually remain with their heads down. That way the spittles’s weight brings it down over the nymphs and protects them from predators. I doubt many predators would like a mouthful of spittle. I know it’s not the most pleasant stuff to come in contact with unexpectedly when weeding.


6 responses to this post.

  1. I never heard of this … had to look it up to make sure you weren’t pulling a fast one! Fascinating, indeed.


  2. Posted by Therese on June 6, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    I need to get my Thesaurus out. I’m running of descriptive words for you. Amazing, interesting, fascinating, awesome, so cool…..


  3. I have seen this so many times and wondered what it was. Cool to find it a bug in there. I thought it was my dog slobbering all over the grass where it was chewing on it! My “learned something new” for today!!


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