Twolined Spittlebug

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Twolined spittlebug adult on St.Augustinegrass leaf.
Twolined spittlebug nymph pushed out of spittlemass.
  • Scientific Name: Prosapia bicincta (Say). [Phylum Arthropoda: Class Insecta: Order Homoptera: Family Cercopidae]


  • Common Names: twolined spittlebug


  • Climatic Zone: tropical and warm temperate


  • Geographic Distribution: Native of North America, most common in Gulf States into Mexico and Central America. Found as far north as Maryland across to Kansas.


  • Damaging Stage: Nymphs damage turf and adults occasionally damage ornamental trees and shrubs.


  • Hosts: Attacks southern turfgrasses such as bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass, bangolagrass, bahiagrass and centipede grass as well as crops such as millet, oats, clover and sugarcane. Adults may feed on herbaceous perennials and have been noted to damage holly.


  • Damage Symptoms: Large numbers of spittlemasses are unsightly and cause concerns by messing shoes and bare feet. Nymphs cause patches of turf to turf yellow and the adults cause the leaves to turn brown and die. This gives the appearance of sparse blighted turf. The adults may also cause damage to flowers or some ornamentals, especially Burford holly.


  • Description of Stages: This pest has a typical gradual life cycle.


Eggs: The eggs are elongate oval and taper to a rounded point at one end. The 1.09x0.27mm eggs are first pale orange and change to an orange-red in a few days.

Nymphs: Freshly hatched nymphs are pale yellow with a small orange spot on each side of the abdomen and are about 2mm long. The nymphs molt four times, during which time, the orange spots enlarge to cover the entire abdomen. The final, fifth instar nymph has well developed wing pads with two transverse orange bands and is about 8mm long. The nymphs are usually covered by the spittle mass.

Adults: The boat-shaped adults are about 10mm long and have a dark brown to black color with two distinct reddish orange bands on the wings. The adults have orange-red bodies, do not produce spittlemasses and can jump and fly short distances.


  • Life Cycle and Habits: The eggs over winter in the turf and are usually deposited at the base of grass plants. Sometimes the eggs are inserted between a lower leaf sheath and stem but more commonly, they are inserted into the surrounding thatch. The eggs may be laid singly or in small groups. Though eggs are the normal overwintering stage, occasional adults may be found during the winter months in Florida. Eggs hatch in early spring when the turf is coming out of dormancy. The young nymphs must find a suitable feeding site within an hour or two or they die. When they finally insert their mouthparts after probing several places, the nymphs produce a spittlemass. This is actually an excretion from the anus. As feeding and growth continues, the nymphs may move about and sometimes several nymphs may share a single spittlemass. If too much moisture is present in the turf, the nymphs may move to the tips of the grass blades to form spittlemasses. Depending upon temperatures, the nymphs take 34-60 days to mature. First peak adult emergences occur in late May and early June in Florida to July in South Carolina. Depending on temperatures and moisture, adults may be continuously present until October or a second peak population of adults may be found in late August through September. Newly emerged adults females release a sex pheromone which attracts interested males. After mating the females begin ovipositing in about a week. The females lay an average of 50 eggs over a two week period. During summer temperatures, the eggs take 14-23 days to hatch but eggs laid in September or October do not hatch until the next spring. Nymphal feeding may only cause yellowing in the turf but the adults cause a toxic reaction in which the affected stem turns brown and dies. Adults also may cause brown spots on flowers and ornamentals because of feeding. The adults fly for a period shortly after dark and are attracted to lights.


  • Control Approaches: This pest rarely damages well maintained turfgrasses (except centipedegrass) and is more of a pest in pastures. It is more of a nuisance because of the spittlemasses.


Cultural Control - Control Irrigation - since the nymphs can not survive dry conditions, especially when small, reducing irrigation in the spring and early summer may reduce populations. Reducing practices which cause thatch buildup, usually too much fertilizer, also makes it difficult for young nymphs to survive.

Biological/Natural Control - the fungus Entomophthora grylli attacks the adults, usually late in August through September. This fungus is probably encouraged by moist warm conditions so irrigation on warm evenings may help in its spread.

Chemical Control - Insecticide Applications - if spittlemasses are a nuisance problem or actual damage is occurring, applications of contact pesticides are generally effective. A reapplication may be needed in mid-summer as adults migrate in from surrounding turf. Ornamental plants, especially hollies, may also need protection if large numbers of adults are active.