Let it Grow: Beware the lawn-wrecking spittlebug

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Recently, I noticed some sort of tan blotches on my sky pencil hollies (Ilex crenata). It looked like chemical damage at first but, after observing the problem areas with a loupe, I figured it to be a fungus.

Before I treated the assumed problem, I asked Dr. Jim Jacobi, plant pathologist, to have a look and positively identify the problem (that&8217;s what we are supposed to do; diagnose and treat).

Dr. Jacobi said that the problems were not a fungus at all, but damage from two-lined spittlebugs. After some research about this creature, I found that they attack Japanese hollies and some grasses including Bermuda and centipede grass.

A few days ago, my friend Bryant Naile of Andy&8217;s Landscape Service came by the house for a visit and pointed out that I had spittlebug damage all over my lawn. He showed me a blade of grass that was beautiful green with a bright red stripe down one side of the blade and said the red stripe was caused by the spittlebugs.

Then, I noticed that my lawn was not as pretty as I thought. Suddenly I began to see all of the red blade damage.

Spittlebugs have a piercing-sucking mouthpart and use their needle-like straw to suck out the sap.

If you notice spittlebug damage to your lawn or ornamentals, go online to the Alabama Cooperative Extension website and read the publication, ANR-170. There is a link to their website on the Home Grown Tomatoes website listed below.

If these little creatures are invading your turf, ask your lawn care professional to help you treat them or go by one of your independent nurseries and get their advice on what is best to use for this problem.

The Farmers Co-op in Columbiana, Myers Plants and Pottery in Pelham or Hanna&8217;s Garden Shop in Greystone are good places to start.

Spittlebugs love Shelby County&8217;s summer humidity, so don&8217;t wait until your whole yard is infested to treat for them.

One last thing to consider is; if you are irrigating your lawn too much, you may be inviting the spittlebug over for dinner. Watch your water usage.

For more on these and other gardening tips listen to Home Grown Tomatoes Saturday mornings from 6-8 on 101.1 FM, The Source and log on to http://HGTradio.net