Sometimes you may notice a wad of wet bubbles in your yard or garden, as if someone spat on your plants. This is often a sign of spittlebugs, which tend to be insignificant in small numbers but can inhibit the growth of plants during larger infestations. This article reviews how to get rid of spittlebugs and prevent them from returning.
Tip: Overfertilized and overwatered yards can create a habitat full of nutrients and moisture that attracts spittlebugs and other insects. Fertilize and water your yard in moderation.
All About Spittlebugs
- A spittlebug is the larval or young form of an adult insect called a froghopper. After hatching from eggs, the young spittlebugs climb on the stems of plants and drink their sap.
- Their byproduct of bubbly foam can resemble spittle, but contains no saliva. Spittlebugs use the bubbly substance as protection from predators, extreme temperatures and drying out.
- Spittlebug foam can be unsightly, but one or two of the larvae will not significantly harm a plant. In great numbers, however, spittlebugs will eat so much sap they can weaken a plant and inhibit its growth.
- Favorite host plants for spittlebugs are junipers and pine trees, but also include annual beans, strawberry, lavender and rosemary. They are also known to show up on edibles and ornamentals.
Removing Spittlebugs by Hand or Hose
- One way to rid your garden of spittlebugs is to remove them by hand or spray them with a hose.
- If removing them by hand, simply wipe off the foam and pick up the larvae. The bugs and their byproducts are not harmful to humans, but consider wearing gardening gloves for this.
- You can either crush the larvae with your fingers or drop them into a bucket of soapy water.
- Spraying spittlebugs with a garden hose washes the insects and their residue off your plants and can drown the eggs. You may need to spray multiple times over one or two weeks to ensure the spittlebugs will not return.
Make a Non-Toxic Organic Pesticide
It’s easy to make an effective, non-toxic pesticide from organic materials that will kill spittlebugs and prevent them from returning. The necessary ingredients will likely be in your kitchen.
- Combine 1/2 to 1 cup of jalapeño or habanero peppers, 6 to 10 peeled garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper. Mix in a blender until thoroughly puréed. Add water and continue to blend. Strain the solid matter and mix with a few tablespoons of dish soap or other liquid soap.
- Put the liquid in a spray bottle. Go to your garden, wipe the spittlebug foam off the plants and spray the area with the organic pesticide.
- A light spray on the soil around the plant should reduce the chance that the spittlebugs will return.
Tip: This spray should not hurt your plant, but test it on a leaf or other small portion of the plant to make sure.
Removing Spittlebugs From Your Lawn
- Some types of spittlebugs, including the two-lined spittlebugs, are known to inhabit lawns and potentially cause damage. They tend to feed near the grass roots, making them less visible than spittlebugs on garden plants.
- If spittlebugs have infested your lawn, get an insecticide that contains a pyrethroid designed to attach to a garden hose end sprayer. Water the lawn with the insecticide according to instructions.
Tip: Take all precautions when using chemical insecticides. Wear long sleeves and pants, eye protection and respirator mask when applying. Keep children and pets off the lawn for as long as the directions say.
Other Methods to Repel Spittlebugs
- Spittlebugs often lay eggs in garden debris, so keeping your garden tidy can reduce the chance that they’ll intrude in the first place.
- Similarly, protect your garden with row covers, which are designed to allow rainwater and sunlight in, but raise a barrier to pests.
- Consider introducing some predatory insects, such as praying mantises, to your yard to eat the spittlebugs without the need for insecticides.
- Use a plant-based oil such as neem oil spray or a citrus oil to repel the bugs organically.
The occasional sign of spittlebug foam may not be a cause for concern, and some experts advise a “do nothing” approach in the short term. If spittlebugs seem to be proliferating, take the necessary steps for pest control. Use The Home Depot Mobile App to get all the materials you need.