The Q&A Archives: what is it?

Question: Several of my plants, mainly sage, lavendar and myoporum, have some sort of white, foamy, wet substance in the leaf axils. Looks sort of like Elmer's glue. I've washed it off, sprayed with malathyon, given them

Answer: If it looks like someone spit on your plants, you're dealing with an insect called a spittle bug. They produce a foamy substance to diguise them from predators. The foam also protects them as they feed. If you were to capture one and wash the foam away, you'd find a very narrow, light green insect. Spittle bugs suck the fluids from plants and can cause distortion of the foliage. Unless the population is extremely high, they won't kill your plants. There are several generations of these pests each year so although you've tried lots of control, you may only need to hose your plants off each morning (when adults are most active). Do this daily for 7-10 days and you should discourge each any every spittle bug. If this fails, Orthene is registered for use against these pests. Be sure to read and follow label directions.

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