University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #ENY-334

Twolined Spittlebugs in Turfgrass 1

E. A. Buss and L. L. Williams2

Spittlebugs are present throughout the entire state, but they are more abundant in northern and northwestern Florida. They attack all turfgrass species, but centipedegrass is the most susceptible. Adults also feed on ornamental plants, especially hollies (Ilex cassine or I. opaca).

Damage

Both adults and nymphs suck juices from the grass with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. They remove a lot of fluid from the plants so they can be surrounded by the frothy spittle mass.

Identification

Adult twolined spittlebugs, Prosapia bicincta (Say) (Figure 1), are black with red eyes and legs and have two orange stripes across their wings. They are about 1/4 inch long. The nymphs are yellow or creamy in color with a brown head (Figure 2). They are surrounded by a mass of white frothy spittle (Figure 3) that they excrete for protection. Adults are most active in early morning and hide near the soil surface during the heat of the day.

Figure 1. 

Twolined spittlebug adult.


Credit: Lyle Buss, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 2. 

Exposed spittlebug nymph.


Credit: J. L. Castner, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 3. 

Spittle mass on grass.


Credit: E. A. Buss, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Life Cycle

There are usually two to three generations per year. The life cycle requires about 2 1/2 months. Eggs are laid at the base of the grass in the thatch, in hollow grass stems, or behind the leaf sheaths. Eggs laid by the second generation overwinter and hatch the following spring, usually from late March to late April. First generation adults are abundant in June. The adult population may peak again in August or September.

Management

Monitoring

Spittlebug feeding causes a purple and/or white stripe to run along the grass blades of infested turfgrass, especially centipedegrass (Figure 4). In heavy infestations, the grass wilts and the tips turn yellow, eventually brown, and then curl. In St. Augustinegrass, spittlebug injury resembles that of chinch bugs. However, unlike chinch bug injury, which tends to occur in sunny areas, spittlebug injury usually appears in shady areas.

Most spittle masses occur near the soil surface or in thatch, so they are not readily visible. However, some dried spittle masses may appear on grass blades during adult emergence (Figure 3). High moisture and humidity conditions favor their development. Typically, spittlebug numbers are higher during years with more spring and summer rainfall. Excess thatch also favors their development.

Figure 3. 

Spittle mass on grass.


Credit: E. A. Buss, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 4. 

Spittlebug damage on centipedegrass.


Credit: Larry Williams, UF/IFAS
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Cultural Control

Follow approved practices regarding mowing, fertilization and irrigation to reduce thatch buildup. If a thatch problem exists, dethatching or verticutting should reduce spittlebug problems. Avoid overwatering the grass. Spittlebugs cannot survive drought conditions.

If possible, plant a more resistant turfgrass cultivar or species (e.g., St. Augustinegrass, zoysiagrass), and avoid centipedegrass.

Chemical Control

To minimize grass injury, chemical control may be required when spittlebug populations are heavy. Be careful not to use a product labeled only for ornamental use against spittlebugs in grass. To improve control, mow and dispose of clippings before an insecticide is applied. Irrigating before treatment, or increasing the amount of water used in the spray solution will improve control. Granular formulations may not be as effective as liquids. It is best to monitor or apply insecticides late in the day when nymphs are higher on the plants than during the hot midday. Adult spittlebugs are usually more successfully controlled than nymphs, but may be on ornamental plants in addition to being in the turfgrass. The nymphs are protected by the spittle masses.

This fact sheet is included in SP134: Pests in and around the Florida Home, which is available from the IFAS Extension Bookstore. http://ifasbooks.ifas.ufl.edu/p-154-pests-in-and-around-the-florida-home.aspx

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENY-334 (LH077), one of a series of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Date first printed October 1993. Revised June 2006 and July 2011. Please visit the EDIS Website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

E. A. Buss, assistant professor, Entomology and Nematology Department, Gainesville, and L. L. Williams, Okaloosa County Extension Agent, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.