I’m looking to identify what type of spider lives in this foamy mess.
July 16, 2009
I went on a hike the other day and along the trail, I saw this white foamy substance under most of the plant leaves. Parts of the trail looked like it was just covered with it. My father said that he had seen the same spit-like goo on deer grass in another part of the county. We asked a ranger what it was, and she told us that there are spiders lying in each glob. Content with that answer we drove home. When I got home, I suddenly realized that I didn’t ask the type of spider and it drove me crazy! It’s too far to drive back there! Yesterday, I went on a run on the trail near our house which goes along the beach, and the same stuff was there, this time I caught a picture! Is there any chance you know what’s going on with this all? I’m dying of curiosity!
Northern California, Humboldt County, McKinleyville
The ranger spoke in error. There is no spider in the center of the spittle. There is an immature Spittlebug in the center of the spittle. Spittlebugs are leafhopper-like insects in the family Cercopidae, and according to BugGuide, there are 67 North American species in 9 genera. BugGuide also indicates: “After the nymph molts for the final time, the resulting adult insect leaves the mass of “spittle” and moves about actively. The “spittle” is derived from a fluid voided from the anus and from a mucilaginous substance excreted by epidermal glands. Spittlebug nymphs wander away from their spittle masses, and either start new ones, or enter those of other nymphs. Aphrophora nymphs hold the record, of one spittle mass over a foot long containing about 100 individuals! (Comment by Andy Hamilton).“