I first discovered these unusual creatures on a lovely summer day. It was a hot day and I had the sensation on water been dripped onto my skin, as if someone was flicking their wet fingers at me. The coolness of the drips was quite refreshing, and as I am not one to ignore anything nature has to offer, I decided to find the source of the dripping. I grabbed hold of my camera and did some zooming into the trees, and there they were, the ‘bubble’ bugs, a name I gave them, as at the time I did not know what they were. After some research I established their proper name, spittle bugs.
Spittle bugs are nymphs of the frog-hopper, and in their nymph stage they feed on the fluids which conduct water from the roots to the rest of the plant. This is very difficult to do as they work against gravity and require strong pumping muscles. They do not feed on the sap so there is very little harm done to the host they attach themselves to.
As you can see in the photographs, the bugs form groups and shelter together. The froth also provides a high humidity micro-climate and shields the bugs from rain. Once the nymph molts into adulthood, it leaves the spittle mass behind.
So, if you are ever spat at by a spittle bug, don’t worry, it is just water that is been spat at you, and as I said before, there will be little or no damage to the plant. There is no need to run for the insecticide. Just enjoy the uniqueness of these strange creatures, they too will move on.
©Caroline Street. Photography.