Dealing with pesky two-lined spittlebugs in your garden can be a frustrating task. These small, wedge-shaped insects with distinct red eyes and legs are known scientifically as Prosapia bicincta. They feed on a variety of plants, using their mouthparts to pierce stems or leaves and extract the juices within. Some of their favorite targets include holly bushes and centipedegrass, potentially causing damage to your plants and lawn.
In order to effectively get rid of two-lined spittlebugs, understanding their lifecycle and habits is essential. The nymphs, or immature spittlebugs, are often found in warm-season turfgrasses but can also wreak havoc on cool-season grasses. They produce a spittle-like foam to protect their tender bodies from predators and dry conditions. Adult spittlebugs, on the other hand, typically feed on various ornamentals in the garden.
Armed with the right knowledge and strategies, you can successfully tackle these bothersome pests and protect your plants from potential damage. In this article, we will discuss various methods, tools, and tips to help you effectively eliminate two-lined spittlebugs from your garden and lawn.
Understanding the Two-Lined Spittlebug
The life cycle of the two-lined spittlebug includes:
They complete their life cycle within one year1.
Two-lined spittlebugs are identifiable by their:
- Wedge-shaped bodies
- Dark brown to black color
- Distinct red eyes
- Red or orange lines across wings2
Additionally, their size is around 0.38 inches long3.
The two-lined spittlebug isn’t picky when it comes to feeding, but some preferences include:
They pierce plant stems or leaves and suck out juices, causing damage8.
Comparison of Two-Lined Spittlebug Characteristics:
|Life Cycle||Complete within one year9|
|Color||Dark brown to black10|
|Size||0.38 inches long11|
|Feeding Preferences||Turfgrasses, holly bushes, centipedegrass12|
Identifying Two-Lined Spittlebug Damage
Signs of Infestation
Two-lined spittlebugs are known for leaving behind a frothy, white foam on grass blades and plant stems. This foam is created by the nymphs to protect themselves from predators and dehydration. To identify a spittlebug infestation, look for:
- Small, white, frothy masses on your lawn and plants
- Yellowing and browning of grass blades
- The presence of dark brown, wedge-shaped adult spittlebugs with distinct red eyes and legs
If you notice these signs, you may be dealing with a two-lined spittlebug infestation. Keep your lawn well-maintained, mow regularly, and remove excess thatch and debris to help minimize the risk of infestation.
Two-lined spittlebugs can damage various types of plants, both turfgrass, and ornamentals. Some of the most commonly affected plants are:
- St. Augustinegrass
Other susceptible plants include hollies, morning glories, junipers, and pine trees. Maintaining the health of these host plants is crucial for the prevention of spittlebug infestations. Proper watering, mowing, and removal of debris can contribute to a healthier lawn and landscape, making it more resistant to these pests.
You can also consider using organic methods, like introducing beneficial insects (e.g. ladybugs) to help control the spittlebug population. Keep in mind that the main goal is to minimize the harm caused by the spittlebugs without harming your lawn’s ecosystem.
Preventing and Controlling Spittlebug Infestations
To prevent spittlebug infestations, focus on maintaining a healthy turf:
- Avoid thatch buildup by mowing and irrigating the grass regularly
- Reduce humidity and hiding spots by removing garden debris and weeds
- Monitor temperatures, as spittlebugs prefer warmer, more humid conditions
- Keep a close eye on centipedegrass, as it is a spittlebug’s favorite turf
Introducing natural predators can help keep spittlebug populations in check:
- Encourage the presence of ladybird beetles, lacewings, and spiders in your garden
- Attract birds by installing birdhouses and feeders close to infested areas
Chemical treatments should be used as a last resort in case of severe infestations. Here’s a comparison of common chemical options:
|Bifenthrin||Effective against spittlebugs||Non-selective; can harm beneficial insects|
|Carbaryl||Provides good control||Harmful to pollinators and mammals; potential environmental impact|
|Neem oil||Organic option; less harmful to beneficials||Requires frequent application; less effective against severe infestations; slow acting|
|Lambda-cyhalothrin||Fast acting; broad spectrum||Highly toxic to bees, fish, and aquatic invertebrates|
- Apply the pesticide only after carefully reading the label and following the instructions
- Always target adults and eggs at the same time for maximum effect
- Avoid spraying on hot days or when plants are in bloom to minimize harm to beneficial insects and pollinators
- Keep pets and children away from treated areas until the pesticide has dried and it is safe to return
By combining these cultural, biological, and chemical strategies, you can effectively prevent and control two-lined spittlebug infestations in your garden.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Two Lined Spittlebug
July 13, 2009
Lots of these on our Red Bud tree recently (July). Black body with red underside, red line and one yellow line across thorax; wings black with 2 yellow-orange stripes across them. Approx. 1 cm. length. Antennae inconspicuous.
This is a Two Lined Spittlebug, Prosapia bicincta. Spittlebugs are related to Leafhoppers and share many similarities since they are in the same suborder of Free Living Hemipterans, but they have their own family Cercopidae. The immature Spittlebugs live in a mass of foam that resembles spittle. BugGuide indicates that the damage done to plants is mild and states: “In the immature (nymph) stage (surrounded by the ‘spittle’ foam which protects them, and which they produce from juices they suck from the plant) they feed on centipedegrass, bermudagrass and other grasses, including occasionally corn. Adults feed on hollies – they feed on the underside of leaves, and damage shows up as pale mottling not usually visible from above.“
Letter 2 – Two Lined Spittlebug
Found this bug in my florida house
January 9, 2010
Found this is the house. What bug is this? Black with Red/organge striped wings.
thanks for help
New port richey fl
This is a Two Lined Spittlebug, Prosapia bicincta, a common garden insect that feeds on grasses and holly. It will not damage your home and is not dangerous to humans or pets. It probably accidentally came indoors from the yard.
Letter 3 – Two Lined Spittlebug
Beneficial or Pest?
I live in Round Rock, TX. Could you please tell me what this bug is? I love beneficials and just cannot seem to find a picture of it on the internet. I thought it might be some kind of Milkbug at first but, it is on everything in my garden from tomato to cucumber to melon to basil plants. It does not seem to be chewing or sucking on the leaves so I am thinking maybe it is a beneficial. Help! Thanks,
This is a Two Lined Spittlebug, Prosapia bicincta. The immature insects form a mass of foamy spittle that serves as a protection while the insect feeds by sucking the juices from plants. Your photo shows the winged adult. According to BugGuide: “In the immature (nymph) stage (surrounded by the “spittle” foam which protects them, and which they produce from juices they suck from the plant) they feed on centipedegrass, bermudagrass and other grasses, including occasionally corn. Adults feed on hollies – they feed on the underside of leaves, and damage shows up as pale mottling not usually visible from above.”
Letter 4 – Two Lined Spittlebug
Subject: freak bug
Location: Berkeley Springs, WV
July 22, 2016 4:43 pm
Spotted this guy on a hike in West Virginia… can’t tell if it’s a beetle or maybe something emerging from casing…. help?
This Two Lined Spittlebug, Prosapia bicincta, is a free living Hemipteran, not a Beetle.