At first, I thought someone had tossed the remnants of their milkshake onto my rosemary bush, until I realized that the same substance was on the lavender bush and the juniper. What is it? Spittlebug nymphs!
This isn’t the best picture, but if you look close you can see one large white blob and several other smaller blobs.
Spittlebugs, also called froghoppers, are related to leafhoppers and cicadas. They are harmless to humans and relatively harmless to plants. They feed on the juices inside the leaves of host plants. Junipers, rosemary, rose bushes, and other woody plants provide tasty homes.
After attaching to a leaf with their jaw, the nymph secretes a white substance from the abdomen. Using their back legs, the nymph then covers itself with the goo. This goo, which looks a bit like spittle or froth, provides protection and insulation.
Most healthy plants can tolerate a few bugs, although you might notice some browning or curling of the leaves. The nymphs usually go away in a couple of weeks, but if you would rather not look at the goo you can easily treat the infestation:
- Rake away any dead plant debris.
- Check your plants daily and wash away any goo with a strong spray from the hose.
- If it is a heavy infestation, and the hose isn’t doing the trick, you can use an insecticidal soap. I came across this recipe at Gardening Know How.
“Organic spittlebug killer recipe
• 1/2 cup hot peppers, diced
• 6 cloves garlic, peeled
• 2 cups water
• 2 teaspoons liquid soap (without bleach)
Puree peppers, garlic and water together. Let sit for 24 hours. Strain and mix in the liquid soap. Wipe the plant foam off the plant and spray all parts of the plant.”