I admit it is kind of cute .. in a way …

Philaenus spumarius?
Philaenus spumarius I presume? Note the prominent point of origin for ‘spit’ distribution

I braved the mosquitoes today and almost wished I hadn’t. I assumed everything would be lush and lovely after yesterday’s rain but alas I discovered a new pest. Someone was causing my mealy sage some distress. Spittlebugs.

spittleThese bugs suck. I mean that literally. Like their cousins the aphids and cicadas the nymphs get their nourishment from sucking the lifeblood out of plants. Vampires! In our midst! Like aphids they are fragile and pretty easy to control by blasting them with water. Once removed from their protective insulation not many of the nymphs can survive. They will fall to predators, dehydration or temperature extremes.

I doubt I will bother to hose them off. They’ve already done the worst of their damage and they will soon disappear. The sage is tough and will look fine in a few weeks.

Their name amuses me.  The genus name Philaenus comes from a Greek word meaning love. The species name spumarius comes from Latin.  Spuma means sparkling (I guessed something quite different) and presumably refers to their foam nests which incidentally are not made of spit but come from the bug’s OTHER end. After secreting the acrid liquid they turn it into foam by pumping it or moving around. Then they use their hind legs to slather it all over their lovely glabrous bodies. Probably tmi, no?

The writer of the Wikipedia article interprets the combo of Latin and Greek words to mean they are foam lovers but these bugs will now forever inhabit my mind as love sparkles.

Factoid: These guys can jump higher than fleas — up to 27 inches. This must be the source of their other common name froghopper.


11 thoughts on “Spittlebug

  1. When I was a child I always believed that it really was cuckoo spit. I couldn’t understand why they spit so much and why other birds didn’ t spit.
    Then I learnt that it was a bug and not a cuckoo at all.
    Now you tell me it isn’ t even spit. It comes from the other end. Isn’ t nature marvellous? Revolting too.


  2. I’ve run across these little guys in seasons past (or at least the, ahem, remnants of their activity) but that is one pest I’m not currently seeing in my garden spaces. One of the few. I had no idea they can jump that high. It makes all my leaning over and squinting at my plants to assess population densities and the damage exacted a little more….exciting, shall we say?

    “Love sparkles”. You are the best.


  3. I’ve always known this as Cuckoo Spit. It’s dotted everywhere here in the UK in woodland and hedgerows and occasionally in my own back garden. I had know idea it was such an ugly little bug!
    Bright Blessings


  4. Wow, those are interesting bugs. I was never fascinated by insects at all and am certainly grossed out by most of them. However, when I was in undergrad, my absolute favorite professor was an entomologist. He actually was teaching a course on evolution but he would go off on these passionate tangents about bugs and try to recruit students to go on his yearly Costa Rican bug hunting trips. He was so convincing and passionate about the wonder of bugs that he almost convinced me to look into the trip! Since then, I’ve definitely appreciated knowing more about bugs, so thank you for sharing.


    1. Confidentially, it took me awhile to get over my insect squick but the more I look at them the more fascinating they become. I think I would love to attend one of his classes. You were a very lucky person.


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