Squishy Lawns

first_img K. Braman, UGA, CAES K. Braman, UGA, CAES “Get down low and part your turf,” Braman says. “You want to look into the thatch area, between the green and soil and look for the spittle masses or the adult spittle-bugs.” These wedge-shaped insects are only about a quarter-inch long. This squishy sound comes from the spittle masses formed by the spittle-bugnymphs, or immatures. Braman says the young insects form spittle masses in the grass toprotect themselves from predators and from drying out. “They also seem to like themoisture they create, so do anything you can to disrupt that high moistureenvironment,” she said.Braman says the first thing homeowners should do is get on their knees.”Get down low and part your turf,” she says. “You want to look into thethatch area, between the green and soil and look for the spittle masses or the adultspittle-bugs.”Just a quarter-inch in size, the adult spittle-bug has a black, wedge ortent shaped body with two red lines across its back. Thus, the name two-lined spittle-bug.The “spittle”part of the name comes from the messy spittle masses the younginsects create. “They become very apparent every summer when they land on peopletrying to mow their lawns,” said Braman.Although the spittle masses the young create are not attractive, it’s theadult spittle-bugs that cause the most damage to your lawn. “The adults haveneedle-like mouthparts to extract fluids from the plants,” said Braman. “Theyinject a toxin that causes the grass to wither and turn brown.”A common turfgrass pest, spittle-bugs feed on centipede and other warmseason grasses such as bermudagrass, zoysia and St. Augustine. In the Southeast, they alsofeed on some woody ornamentals.”Some holly trees, such a ‘Savannah’ Holly, are preferred by adultspittle-bugs,” said Braman. “If a tree has been infested, the new growth will betwisted and deformed and the leaves will have irregular brown blotches.”Braman says ornamental damage is caused by adult spittle-bugs. The nymphsof this species only feed on non-woody plants like turfgrass.”If you see spittlemasses in trees, they weren’t put there by two-lined spittle-bugs,” said Braman. ‘SQUISHY’-FEELING LAWNS are probably caused by spittle-bug masses, above. Immature spittle-bugs, below, create these masses to protect themselves from predators and to keep from drying out. ÿÿ K. Braman, UGA, CAEScenter_img If centipede is the grass of choice in your lawn, check now for tiny,two-lined spittle-bugs that could be destroying your lawn, bite by bite.”If you walk across your grass and it’s squishy, chances are, you’vegot two-lined spittle-bugs,” said KrisBraman, an entomologist with the University of GeorgiaCollege of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.”It sounds and feels like you are walking on a sponge.” If you find two-lined spittle-bugs in your lawn, don’t panic. “Theyare really visible insects and just because you see them, it doesn’t mean your grass isgoing to die,” said Braman. The populations of two-lined spittle-bugs are high during the summermonths. “This insect goes through two generations each summer,” said Braman.”Adults begin to fly in June and a second set of adults will be seen in August.”The first step to reducing populations in your lawn is to keep your grassmowed to the proper height. “Just because your turfgrass is a low maintenancevariety, doesn’t mean it’s a no maintenance variety,” said Braman. “You have tokeep the thatch area from being overdeveloped because that’s where the insects areliving.”The spittle-bugs also like the edges of the grass along the sidewalks andnear hedges where the grass is shaded. “People sometimes over fertilize centipede andthis is bad for several reasons,” said Braman. “The spittle-bugs like the extranitrogen and the grass doesn’t. Centipede is naturally yellow-green, but people try toforce it to be kelly green by over fertilizing.”Braman says this creates a thicker and denser grass, which is a favorableenvironment for two-lined spittle-bugs.Working with UGA turfgrass breeders and horticulturists, Braman isresearching turfgrass and holly cultivars that are resistant to harmful insects, such asthe two-lined spittle-bug. Researchers have found avoiding landscape combinations likecentipede turf and ‘Savannah’ hollies can be an easy solution to spittle-bug lawnproblems.If spittle-bugs are a problem in your home landscape, Braman suggestshomeowners limit irrigation to avoid creating an environment that’s a magnet forspittle-bugs. “Georgia’s drought conditions may help reduce the populations thisyear, but irrigation favors the insect’s development,” said Braman.last_img