Two-Lined Spittlebug

The two-lined spittlebug (Prosapia bicincta Say) is a pest that more and more lawn care operators are spotting in Arkansas. It is typically more problematic on centipedegrass and bermudagrass turf in the southeastern U.S., but recently has been causing problems to zoysiagrass turf as far west as Arkansas. Spittlebugs are most problematic in central and southern Arkansas. Adults also feed on ornamental plants, especially hollies (Ilex spp.) and adjacent turf areas.

Adult and nymph spittlebugs feed by sucking juices from turfgrasses with their piercing, sucking mouth parts. Removal of the juices (sap) leads to weakened, stressed turf (A). Grass blades turn yellow or whitish in color and then brown (B). Damage may appear as small patches of wilted, stunted, or dead turf and is usually more problematic in shady areas.

Images showing two-lined spittle bug and its damage to turf

Spittlebugs can usually be identified and located easily in lawns. Spittlebugs are prolific jumpers and will often jump as lawnmowers pass through the lawn; sometimes jumping on the operator. Two-lined spittlebugs are small in size (C) at about 5/16 inch (8 mm) in length as adults. Adults are black with red eyes and legs and have two orange stripes across their wings/back (D,E). Spittlebugs can also be easily identified from the frothy spittle (F) that covers newly hatched nymphs. The spittle is a frothy mass that is secreted to help protect the nymphs.

 Two-lined spittlebugs overwinter as eggs in Arkansas. Over-wintering eggs hatch in April as the turf comes out of winter dormancy. The newly hatched eggs (nymphs) feed near the base of the grass plant and excrete a mass of frothy spittle which looks like small bubbles. There are likely two generations of two-lined spittlebugs in Arkansas each year. The first generation matures in June or July and the second generation peaks in September. Spittlebug populations are usually higher in wet, humid years with high spring and summer rainfall such as in 2009.

Control of this pest is difficult because 1) there are two generations per year, 2) nymphs are protected by the spittle, and 3) because adults are mobile and can migrate from surrounding areas. Cultural control includes reducing irrigation (to reduce egg and nymph survival) and removing thatch (overwintering site). Additionally, avoid planting Japanese hollies in the landscape since they are a favored host of spittlebugs. Additionally, resistant cultivars of turf should be planted. Crowne zoysiagrass is moderately susceptible to the two-lined spittle bug, while Cavalier, Diamond, El Toro, Emerald, Palisades, and Royal zoysiagrass are moderately resistant (Shortman et al., 2002). Tifway is considered to be more tolerant to two-lined spittlebug feeding than other bermudagrass cultivars (Shortman et al., 2002). Clipping removal when frothy masses are visible may help reduce spittlebug populations by removing some of the nymphs.

Products containing azadirachitin (Azatrol), bifenthrin (Allectus GC SC, Bifenthrin 2EC, Quali-Pro Bifenthrin, Talstar F), carbaryl (Sevin; professional use only), and deltamethrin (DeltaGard T&O 5SC) are registered for use on two-lined spittlebugs in turfgrass. Acephtae (Orthene) can be used to control two-lined spittle bugs on golf courses and sod farms. Mow the turf before application and apply with a high spray volume in order to improve control. Other insecticides not listed above are labeled for use in ornamentals in order to control this pest in surrounding landscape plantings.

Aaron Patton

References

Buss, E.A., and L. Williams. 2004. Twolined spittlebugs in turfgrass, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/LH077. EDIS Publication ENY-334, Department of Entomology and Nematology, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. First published October 1993; revised August 2004.

Shortman, S.L., S.K. Braman, R.R. Duncan, W.W. Hanna, and M.C. Engelke. 2002. Evaluation of turfgrass species and cultivars for potential resistance to twolined spittlebug (Hemiptera: Cercopidae). J. of Econ. Entm. 95(2):478-486.

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