SARATOGA SPITTLEBUG (  Aphrophora  sp. )

 The Saratoga spittlebug seems to prefer pines for food but will also attack balsam fir. Damage may be so light as to be unnoticed, but ocassionally, heavy feeding from the Saratoga spittlebug can seriously disfigure or kill Scots or red pines.

 The nymphs do not feed on conifers, but can be found on a variety of weeds. As they feed, they excrete waste products along with air to form the protective, frothy mass we know as spittle. These delicate, soft-bodied creatures are about 1/4" long, and look a bit like large aphids with their swollen abdomens and smaller heads. Eventually, as the nymphs develop into adults, they stop producing spittle but continue to feed on host plants. Sometime between July and late August, adult spittlebugs will stop feeding and lay eggs. Eggs are the overwintering stage, and they hatch the following spring to give rise to the next crop of nymphs.

 Although it is the adult Saratoga spittlebug that damages conifers, begin by scouting for the nymphs while they are producing spittle and are easy to find to determine how large the population is. Look at the weeds as well as the trees. Heavy rains may wash spittle masses off, but they return in as little as 12 hours. Feeding by adults may be monitored from late July through mid-September by peeling back the bark from a few of this year's shoots and looking for 1/32-1/16" diameter brown flecks in the wood. These are feeding scars, and if there are more than 20 per 4 inches of branch length, populations should be considered to be high enough to cause damage. These feeding scars can be sites for subsequent invasion by fungi.

 Mow often or use herbicides to control broad leaved weeds within at least 20 feet of your crop trees. This will help to prevent the Saratoga spittlebug from completing its life cycle. Where needed, a registered insecticide may be used to treat these pests.

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