Two-lined spittlebugs have dark maroon-colored wings with two bright red lines across each wing. Adults use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to suck sap from stems and leaves. The nymphs feed similarly but form their spittle masses deeper in the turf on the stems and stolens. The adults produce toxic saliva, which can cause significant injury to susceptible grasses. Initial symptoms include yellowing of the leaves, but heavy infestations can result in weak, unhealthy areas and even dead brown patches. Damaging infestations most commonly occur on centipede lawns.
Heavy infestations are favored by wet, rainy conditions, or by lush vigorously growing grass, and it is often the “prettiest centipede lawn in the neighborhood” that has the heaviest infestations. Lawns that are well fertilized, frequently watered, mowed fairly high, and suffer from excessive thatch are especially susceptible. Cultural practices play an important role in managing this pest. Taking steps to minimize thatch build up, keeping grass mowed to the right height, and avoiding excessive water and fertilization can reduce the potential for problems.
This insect has two or three generations per year. Adults of the second generation begin emerging in August and September, and it is normally this second generation that causes the greatest damage to home lawns. Homeowners with susceptible lawns can prevent this problem by checking for spittle masses and treating promptly, if necessary, to prevent large numbers of second generation adults. This means you need to start checking for second generation spittlebug nymphs in July.
Scout lawns by parting turf and looking for the white frothy spittle masses. Heavily infested lawns sometimes have a squishy feel when you walk across them. Treat moderate to heavy infestations with a liquid spray of a recommended insecticide. Sprays are usually more effective than granules because granules tend to fall below the target zone. Hose end sprayers are a convenient way to apply spittlebug treatments, and many home lawn insecticides are available in “ready to use” hose-end spray containers. Mow and water before treatment to improve control.
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