Field Guide     Pest Management     Meadow Spittlebug

Meadow Spittlebug

CROPS IMPACTED: alfalfa, oats, wheat, corn, strawberries

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Family: Cercopidae

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About the Meadow Spittlebug

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The meadow spittlebug overwinters as an egg, often found in clusters of 30 between the stem and leaf sheath. When the nymphs hatch in early spring, they find shelter in areas of the plant that are damp and warm. Once they begin feeding, this stage will last approximately 30 days; it may last longer depending on climate conditions. The nymphs then become a fully developed adult and will continue to feed on the host plant which they hatched on. If; however, the foliage shrivels up, they will migrate to a new host. Later in August and September the females will deposit their eggs on healthy plants. They usually lay between 20 and 50 eggs. The eggs will be placed in their cluster by rows and are covered in froth. They will have 1 generation annually.

Meadow Spittlebug Identification and Habitat

Identification

The meadow spittlebug will grow to be 5 to 7mm long. The adult varies in colour, but is typically found to be brown or tan, and is sometimes gray or spotted (2 small black dots on the head’s tip). Additionally, the wing veins are usually raised. The adults can fly and have the ability to jump long distances. The eggs are oblong, a small 1mm in length and start off white but will turn to a tan colour before it hatches. The nymphs are wingless and are smaller than the adult, but have a similar shape. They start off as orange in their first instar, and then turn yellow in the second, third, and fourth instar, and will finish off as a light green in their fifth; their antennae are black.

Habitat

The meadow spittlebug can often be found on farms, along roadsides, and in meadows throughout North America and Europe. In the United States, they are more common in north central and northeastern states. They prefer humid areas, and can cause a great deal of economic damage to your crops, mainly alfalfa, corn, wheat, and oats. However, they have been found to feed on over 400 plant species. Both adults and nymphs will remove the juices from host plants with their mouth parts that are similar to needles. This will stunt the plants growth and cause it to wilt. As the nymphs feed, they will create a great deal of tiny bubbles; coating themselves in these suds will not only protect them from predators, but will also keep them moist so that the sun cannot dry them out. During the feeding process, the nymphs will continue to molt, slowly turning into an adult. If there are more than 100 meadow spittlebugs per plant, this is when yield rates will be significantly reduced; hay production can often drop up to 50 percent. These major infestations tend to be the result of an exceptionally dry spring.

Meadow Spittlebug Management and Control Methods

Cultural Control

For the meadow spittlebug, chemical control is often the most effective method if completed at the proper time. However, if the infestation is noted too late in the season, then plan to cut your alfalfa as early as feasible. Always let the hay dry out for a sufficient amount of time to prevent mold.

Chemical Control

Often times, meadow spittlebugs are hard to control the first year they occur. Once you notice an infestation, plan to spray your field in the fall (usually September). This can kill a large number of the adults and will reduce the amount of eggs they lay in order to control their population for the following year. You can also follow this with a spray in the spring to the hatching nymphs. If; however, you can catch the infestation before the alfalfa is 6 inches tall, you can try an insecticide. Unfortunately, the results are not going to be completely effective as the nymphs by this point are often protected by their froth. Some insecticides that can be used: Baythroid, Methoxychlor, Mustang Max, Cythion, Lorsban, or Sniper. Be sure to carefully read the label for cautions and proper application.

Latin / Alternative Meadow Spittlebug Names

  • - Philaenus spumarius
  • - Roghoppers

Sources

http://bugguide.net/node/view/7452

http://ipm.ncsu.edu/AG271/forages/meadow_spittlebug.html