What’s With All the Spit?

You may notice that in the spring there appears to be an insurgence of individuals that spit.  If you look closely at the flowers and plants around, you’ll see wads of sudsy spit, or what appears to be spit, often conspicuously placed.  Since I’m writing about this you may have already guessed that this is, in fact, not spit at all.  This bubbly liquid is made by insects in the family Cercopidae – aptly referred to as the Spittlebugs.  The “spit” is constructed by the baby insect (more scientifically correct – the nymph) for protection from predators, dessication, and temperature fluctuations.  The spittlebug eggs hatch in early spring and then the nymphs proceed through several molts, all the while staying attached to a plant that they suck the juices out of for nutrients.  I did not photograph the actual Spittlebug nymphs, but they are absolutely adorable!  Head over to bugguide for some fantastic photographs!

Also, for those of you who are curious, according to bugguide, the “spittle” is actually “derived from a fluid voided from the anus and from a mucilaginous substance excreted by epidermal glands”.  So….better or worse than people spitting all over the plants?  I’ll let you be the judge of that.


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