Tuesday 5 June 2012

Froghoppers and Cuckoo Spit

Here's a little insight into another garden pest - the Froghopper. Its presence is normally signalled by the appearance on your plants of a white frothy substance often known colloquially as "Cuckoo Spit".

The blobs of froth usually appear near the tip of a plant shoot - in other words, the juiciest bit of the plant.
Inside each blob there is a nymph of the insect called a Froghopper or Spittlebug. The Froghopper nymph  feeds on the sap of the plant and uses it to create the froth which conceals the nymph and stops it from drying out. [Did you know that an adult Froghopper can jump 100 times its own length??]

"I'm forever blowing bubbles..."

To give this thing some scale, here is one crawling along my stainless steel Widger tool, which is six inches long.

The culprit "legs it" and makes a bid for freedom... Did he escape???


Interesting as these bugs may be, I still regard them as pests to be eradicated. Their sap-sucking antics damage the plants on which they feed, leaving them with deformed, brown tips. If there are just one or two, I usually ignore them, but if there are lots I disperse their froth with my fingers, or wash it off with a hosepipe (when that is allowed!)  The disappearance of their froth means that the nymphs dry up and quickly die.

While we're on the subject of pests... the Blackfly aphids are already putting in an appearance. They have a particular liking for the tender young shoots of bean plants, such as this Runner Bean.

The Blackfly suck the sap from the growing tips of the beans, which can stunt their growth. I therefore try to eradicate the Blackflies before they get too numerous. I use a proprietary bug-killer spray for this, because I have found that nothing else works. Some people advocate using a soap spray, but I have found this to be ineffective.

Blackfly on the tip of a Broad Bean plant

To prevent Blackfly infestation on Broad Beans, many people advocate pinching out the tips of the plants (which are edible, by the way - just wash them very thoroughly before you eat them), simply to deprive the aphids of their favourite fodder, but experience tells me that Blackflies are not stupid: if they can't have their favourite food, they go for the next best thing - i.e. the slightly less attractive parts of the plant, just a bit further down the stem!

I've also noticed a few of the Beetroot leaves are showing signs of Leaf-miner infestation:

Leaf-miners attack not only Beetroot, but also Chard, Spinach, Parsnips, Celery and Celeriac. They bore into the leaves of these plants, eating the juicy bits so that only the papery skins remain. The damage they cause is unsighlty but rarely fatal, so I tend to just pick off the worst-affected leaves and just let the insects get on with it.

Gardening is a constant battle, isn't it?


  1. YOu are under attack Mark. HOnestly with all these pests I don't know how we manage to grow anything! We don't nip out broad beans either.

  2. Oh gawd-that reminds me-with all this rain I haven’t checked the veg today for any signs of bug attack...

  3. You know, I never knew what the frothy spit was from. I believe we were actually told as children that frogs did it, lol. I had no idea there was a bug in it.

  4. I've always heard of them as spittlebugs. And I had them on my strawberries this year. In my last garden they infested my sage.

  5. The froghopper is kinda cute, in a alien kind of way. I see that frothy stuff on my plants and generally rub it off. I haven't notice anything on my beans yet but this year my columbine are attracting lots of green fly. Slugs are still my worse enemy.

  6. I don't think I have ever seen that frothy spit stuff on plants or seen a froghopper. Ugh! Maybe we don't have them in Florida....we have other disgusting things, though, such as armadillos, that dig up plant and all!

  7. It does feel that if a bug doesn't eat your crop, the weather will ruin it or some virus will wipe everything out.
    I wonder if supermarkets are behind it all?!

  8. Your posts have been very timely lately!! I have some of the 'spit' on my lavender again this year. I was going to google it to see what it was and here you are. I'm going to go wash it now.

  9. I had an asphid attack on my chilli plant last month. I used a neem oil spray. Its organic and so effective that the asphids instantly died and never returned.

  10. Great photos of that froghopper, you've actually made him look cute!

  11. It's a miracle we get to harvest anything ourselves after all these bugs have taken their turn. I remember being told the froth on plants was cuckoo spit when I was a child but I didn't realise that there was a creature in it.

  12. It is a battle, but a micro one. I've got something chomping my plants, two chillis that were apparently thriving with fruits have wilted overnight. Glad I have more...

  13. I'm in a battle with the flea beetle at the moment. The outcome is yet to be known. I press on!

  14. Hey Mark. Thanks again for another great installment.

    The widger picture made me giggle because I was looking at Froggy-O walking along imagining hit humming to itself "la-la-la..." SPLAT!



  15. Hi mark. I put my glasses on this morning and scrunching up my nose to see better, yup really, I rubbed spit off my lavender and found the darn little bug in there. I washed and rubbed and got them all off. Then later I went out and rubbed the spit, grabbed the little bug and flipped them off. By this evening I was rubbing off the spit grabbing the bug, depositing him on the sidewalk and smooshing him with my boot. I had a LOT of them on the lavender. I'm on it now. Thank you.

  16. June 2014 Sves7 June 2014 at 16:53

    I use a mixture of comfrey juice and seaweed extract to condition the soil on raspberries and I never have a problem with greenfly or blackfly. They don't like the taste. It also works on broad beans etc. There is plenty of information on the Internet on how to make comfrey juice and seaweed extract can be purchased at Garden centres and other gardening outlets.


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