Occasionally there are outbreaks of lawn insects that are not the predictable annual problems like chinch bugs, armyworms, or white grubs. The two-lined spittlebug is one such insect I have had recent calls about. These small insects are 3/8 inch long, wedge-shaped and are brown to black colored with reddish eyes and legs. They have two very distinguishing reddish-orange bands across their wings that fold over their body in an inverted V.
The showy adults will crawl up on leaf blades shrubbery etc. and will take flight as you walk by and disturb them. Another tale-tale sign of their presence is the conspicuous masses of frothy white spittle formed down into the canopy of the turf by the young nymphs as they feed on the turf.
I have experienced more outbreaks and damage to centipede and zoysia, but spittlebugs can cause sporadic damage to all warm season turf species by sucking juices from the turfgrasses with their needle-like mouthparts. The results is weakened, stressed turf that turns yellow, then brown and even death in severe feeding cases. The damage appears as small patches of wilted, stunted, or dead grass.
Two-lined spittlebugs are usually more prevalent in years with high spring and summer rainfall. The best way to monitor for this pest is to search for the spittle masses down in the turf canopy. Several contact insecticides are labeled for spittlebug control. Liquid applications work better than granular formulations and mowing and irrigation prior to insecticide application aids in control.
Published September 26, 2005
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org