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Control the spittlebug population in evergreen trees

POSTED: June 6, 2014 1:00 a.m.

During the past few days, the office has received a fair number of calls, emails and visits from residents wondering about little foamy masses on the tips of evergreen trees such as the Leyland cypress.

Have no fear, the masses are not from the tree itself. Instead the trees are providing shelter for spittlebugs, which are using the plant’s juices to create the masses to protect their eggs and nymphs.

I think this year we have seen a good amount of them compared to previous years.

The noticeable increase is because Northeast Georgia has been relatively wet. Spittlebugs need a high-moisture environment to survive.

Specifically, I think we are dealing with the pine spittlebug.

The pine spittlebug is different from ones found in grasses such as Bermuda, zoysia and centipede. The grass type is called a two-lined spittlebug and it can cause some damage to your lawn. Typically, you treat them by dethatching your lawn to reduce the moisture or use a lawn insecticide.

Pine spittlebugs are typically not going to be a major pest and do not cause significant problems. You can easily treat them by dislodging them with a jet of water shot into the tree or spray permethrin or perthinrin-type product once the spittle masses are empty. The other good thing about pine spittlebugs is they have only one generation per year.

As the nymphs mature, they will move around the tree and feed at different sites. They will feed until mid-summer when they become adults. Eggs are then laid in late summer and overwinter, with the nymphs hatching the following spring. Then the whole cycle begins again.

So all in all, pine spittlebugs seem to be at high levels this year, but they should not be too much of a concern.

As we get more into summer, take time to check your Leylands or pines and see how the spittlebugs are developing. The adults are fairly large and should be easily found in the tree.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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