Two-lined spittlebugs are easily identified. They have two horizontal orange to bright red lines crossing their dark backs. A frothy spittle, sometimes called frog spit, produced on the stems of host turfgrasses, protects the tiny nymphs from predators and dehydration.
The adults use their piercing and sucking mouthparts to suck sap from the turf’s leaves and stems. They produce toxic saliva that can cause injury to the turf. The nymphs also feed in a similar pattern, but from their spittle masses lower in the turf canopy.
Turf injury symptoms first appear as yellowing of the leave's, but heavy infestation results in weak, unhealthy turf stands and even dead patches. Centipede is the most susceptible, but infestations can occur in all warm-season turfgrass species.
Wet, rainy conditions and lush, vigorously growing grass enhances heavy infestations. In fact, the prettiest lawns in the neighborhood are the greatest attraction. Lawns that are well fertilized, mown relatively high, frequently watered, and have excessive thatch are most vulnerable. Two or three generations are produced annually and the second or third (late summer and early fall) are the most damaging. There are reports of severe populations already present.
Homeowners with susceptible lawns can prevent severe turf injury by minimizing thatch buildup, keeping grass mown at proper height, avoiding excessive watering, fertilization, and scouting for the spittle masses. Treat promptly if necessary.
To learn more about these and other lawn insects, their injury symptoms, how to locate and identify them, and insecticides for their control refer to extension publication #2331 Control of Insect Pests in and Around the Home Lawn.
Published June 21, 2010
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. email@example.com