How To Kill Two-lined Spittlebugs In The Lawn

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This article provides tips and instructions for controlling two-lined spittlebugs in the lawn
by Brett · All Zones · Insects · 0 Comments · July 20, 2012 · 30,413 views

 PictureTwo-lined spittlebugs are sucking insects that belong to the family Cerocopidae. Adults and nymphs have long been recognized as occasional pests on ornamental plants. However, in the last couple decades, two-lined spittlebug nymphs have become grass pests on home lawns in the South.

If not identified and controlled, spittlebugs can do serious damage to a lawn. They damage grass by piercing the plant tissue with their needle-like mouthparts and sucking out sap. Lawn grasses damaged by spittlebugs include St. Augustinegrass, Zoysiagrass, and Bermudagrass, and Centipede.

Spittlebug damage to lawn grasses usually occurs in June and continues through August or early September. Damaged grass becomes wilted, turns yellow, and then browns and dies. These damaged areas may start out as wilted or yellowed patches 2 to 4 inches in diameter. When there is heavy infestation, these small areas can become so dense that the whole lawn appears off-color.

Good news is, these pests are easy to identify and fairly easy to control. They are easily identified because they surround themselves with and easy-to-see a mass of froth, that looks like spit, close to the soil.

Control of Two-lined Spittlebugs

There are two ways to go about controlling spittlebugs: Prevention and chemical control


Prevention is always my first method for controlling spittlebugs. Eliminate the conditions that spittlebugs like and they won't show's that simple. There are two contributing factors for the development of spittlebug populations in lawn grasses.

  • Humidity
    Both eggs and nymphs of the spittlebug require a moist, humid environment for growth and development. There's not much we Southerners can do about the humidity Mother Nature sends our way, however we can avoid adding to the problem by overwatering the lawn. When there's sufficient rainfall to keep the lawn green and healthy turn off automated irrigation systems. Only provide supplemental water to the lawn when necessary. When you do water do so during the morning hours. This not only helps to prevent insects but also damaging fungus and disease.

  • Thatch Buildup
    The other contributing factor is thatch. If spittlebugs are present in your lawn, chances are there's a thatch problem. Thatch is a layer of living and dead organic matter that occurs between the green portion of the grass and the soil. Excessive thatch (over 1/2 inch thick) creates a favorable environment for pests and disease by trapping excessive moisture. The primary component of thatch is turfgrass stems and roots. It accumulates as these plant parts build up faster than they can break down and decompose.

What causes thatch buildup?
Heavy, compact, and/or consistently wet or soggy soils are a major cause of thatch buildup. Avoid overwatering the lawn and take steps to improve drainage in low-lying areas that retain too much moisture over an extended period of time.

How to prevent thatch buildup?

Aerate dense or compact soils one or two times a year, in early spring and again in mid-summer. Compacted soils and soils with poor drainage tend to accumulate thatch faster than well-drained soils. Aerification, using a "core aerator," helps to loosen soil, providing better drainage and air penetration. Aeration helps to establish a deeper and healthier root system and also stimulates the microbial activity involved in decomposing the thatch layer. .

Avoid the use of quick-release heavy nitrogen fertilizers, such as ammonium nitrate, which cause accelerated growth that will require more frequent mowings to keep the grass clippings short and from clumping together when mowing. Despite popular belief, short clippings dropped on the lawn during mowing are not the cause of thatch buildup. Short clippings (an inch or so in length) decompose rapidly to add beneficial nutrients back into the soil.

Avoid using pesticides as much as possible. Many pesticides affect the microbial and earthworm populations that are involved in decomposing the thatch layer. Pesticides should only be used when a pest problem has been clearly identified and the pesticide is necessary and known to be effective.

Mow the lawn regularly so that no more than one-third of the leaf height is removed during a single mowing.

Thatch removal

When thatch buildup is severe (more than 1/2 inch thick) removal becomes necessary. There are biological products on the market for controlling thatch but thus far these have proven inconsistent. The best method for removing thatch is with a vertical mower (dethatcher). These machines have steel knife-like or spring-like tines that rotate perpendicular to the ground surface. To be effective they should be set so the tines bring a small amount of soil to the surface with the thatch debris.

Chemical Control

Small spittlebug populations cause damage on trees, turfgrass, ornamentals and any other plants they infest, but damage is typically minor. If populations are large enough, they can actually kill a lawn, and chemical controls may be warranted.

When there is an infestation of spittlebugs in the lawn chemical treatment with a pesticide may be necessary. Pesticide chemicals recommended for spittlebug control are Lambda-cyhalothrin, Bifenthrin, Pyrethroid, Carbaryl, Cyfluthrin, Deltamethrin, Imidacloprid + beta-cyfluthrin, Permethrin and others. Many pesticides include the same active chemical ingredient, so make sure spittlebug are listed on the label.

Mowing before application of a pesticide will aid in control. Collect and destroy all clippings. If possible, irrigate turf after mowing. Do this several hours before making an insecticide application. Treat late in the day. Once treatment is done, delay mowing for several days.


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