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