"I am seeing spittlebugs deposits everywhere I look in the Sand Lake area."
Observation by Brandie Radigan
I am seeing spittlebugs deposits everywhere I look in the Sand Lake area. I'm new to Anchorage (from the Copper Valley) and wondering if this is a normal occurrence or if others are seeing this widespread throughout the state as well?
Derek Sikes writes: "The spittlebugs in question are either Philaenarcys bilineata or Philaenus spumarius, which are the 2 most common of about 4 species of spittlebugs that are known from Alaska. I would need to see photos or specimens of the adults to know for sure which species. The nymphs are the lifestage that make the spittle. Regarding the amount or density of spittlebugs being normal or not - insect populations can swing from rare to explosive from year to year and we don't have enough data to know if this is outside the normal year-to-year variation we might expect."
Comments from LEO editors
This is the second post in LEO we have about the deposits of foam on vegetation. The first was posted by Stephan Payton with Seldovia Village Tribe in October of 2019. Derek Sikes consulted on this post and the cause was unidentified, although Derek did not think it was caused by spittlebugs. So this post by Brandie Radigan may be the first in LEO Network about the fascinating Spittlebug. For more on Spittlebugs, see the description provided below by Chyna Williams. Mike Brubaker
According to the publication Insects and Diseases of Alaskan Forests, Spittlebugs aka Froghoppers are distributed in Southeast and southcentral Alaska. They can be found in most of the continental US states in any plant environment. The plant species that host them are sitka spruce seedlings, hardwoods, and ground vegetation. their biology is not well known in Alaska, but they can be identified through the following description: "Both the adult and nymph feed on plant fluids; only nymphs make spittlemass that serves as a protective covering. Young nymphs are red and black; older nymphs are brown. Adults are brown to black and similar to nymphs but with wings. Eggs are teardrop in shape."
The spittle they produce is created through a abdominal opening which secretes a mixture of liquid waste. Unlike other insects that feed on the sugary phloem of plants, Spittlebugs drink the xylem that has much more water content. Because of excess water ingested, these bugs secrete the foam. They utilize the foam to protect themselves from parasites and predators, and it gives them much-needed moisture control, without which they would quickly die.
For some tips on spittlebug infestation in gardens, visit this page which includes additional information on this species and a wonderful homemade organic pesticide recipe to use that will nix the bugs and keep your plants healthy and happy! Chyna Perez-Williams