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Suggestions on spittlebug control in lawns

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Spittlebugs have gotten off to an early start in local lawns this spring. There are usually two generations per year. Adults of the first generation normally become active in June but I began seeing them in May this year. The second-generation adults are active from August to early September.

NICEVILLE, Fla — Spittlebugs have gotten off to an early start in local lawns this spring.

There are usually two generations per year. Adults of the first generation normally become active in June but I began seeing them in May this year. The second-generation adults are active from August to early September.

eye m.D. of Niceville

An early sign of spittlebug activity are masses of white, frothy spittle found in the turf. Each piece of spittle contains one immature (nymph) spittlebug. Infested turf turns yellow and eventually brown.

Spittlebug adults are about ¼ inch long and are black with two orange stripes across their wings. If you have a centipedegrass lawn, you’ve probably seen them.

In St. Augustinegrass, spittlebug damage resembles chinch bug injury. But unlike chinch bug injury, which normally occurs in open sunny areas of the lawn, spittlebug injury usually first appears in shady areas. Injury can move into more sunny areas of the lawn as their population builds. In centipedegrass, spittlebug injury may result in cream-colored and pinkish-purple streaks running the length of individual grass blades.

Spittlebugs attack all turfgrass species. Centipedegrass is their favorite. Whereas, chinch bugs most often attack St. Augustinegrass. I only have seen chinch bug injury in St. Augustine lawns.

As you mow or walk across heavily infested areas of the lawn, adult spittlebugs can be seen flying (many people describe it as jumping) for short distances. As this insect’s population builds or reaches a peak, you may see numerous spittlebugs congregating on the mower as the lawn is being mowed.

Generally, insecticides that contain bifenthrin, cyfluthrin or lambda-cyhalothrin will do a good job in controlling spittlebugs. Many common lawn insecticides contain one of these active ingredients. The “active ingredient” statement will be located on the front side of the product’s package, usually toward the bottom. There, you’ll see if the product contains one of these active ingredients.

eye m.D. of Niceville

To improve control, mow and dispose of clippings before an insecticide is applied. If the lawn is dry, irrigating before treatment will aid in control. Granular insecticides may not be as effective as spray formulations. It’s best to apply insecticides late in the day when nymphs are higher on the plants and more exposed. Spittlebugs are usually more successfully controlled when most of the population is in the adult stage.

Always follow the label directions and precautions when using any pesticide.

For more info on lawn insects, including spittlebugs, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County or visit the following link. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ig001

Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email lwilliams@myokaloosa.com.

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