Cuckoo Spit and Xylella

Cuckoos famously herald the start of spring when you first hear one call. Sadly these days the start of spring tends to be heralded by the sound of a neighbour’s lawn mower revving up of a Sunday morning. The cuckoo is in decline. I suspect it is related to the decline of the birds that they parasitise. They are very particular about which other bird nests they lay their eggs in. Not all bird species are fooled by them. Professor Richard Dawkins explains all about it in one of his books – they are all well worth a read. Cuckoos also leap out of clocks to tell you the time. What they don’t do is spit.photo of cuckoo spit on plant

So what causes these frothy blobs on plants? It is the nymph stage of the froghopper, a cute little bug with an impressive ability to jump. When the nymph hatches out of the egg it bites into the plant stem to feed on the sap; as it excretes the digested sap it pumps air into it with its modified anus (the IBS sufferer of the bug world) to create a blob of froth that envelopes the larva keeping it moist and protected from predators.photo of cuckoo spit on plant

There is a dangerous plant bacteria called Xylella fastidiosa which has been damaging trees and plants on mainland Europe. It has yet to reach the UK, but it is spread by xylem feeding insects such as froghoppers also known as spittlebugs and leafhoppers. The BRIGIT project is trying to learn about the distribution and behaviour of these insects and is asking the public to look out for them and record sightings, please see this website for more information.photo of cuckoo spit on plant

This spring the solidago, or golden rod, in the garden is dripping with this froghopper spittle.photo of golden rod flowers

Over at the British Pathe website you can watch an informative film all about the lifecycle of the froghopper. It was made in 1932 and lasts just over 8 minutes. Before Youtube was invented, kids used to pay to watch this sort of thing at the cinema. I would recommend watching it if you wish to see froghoppers being moithered at every stage of their development, and notice how the nicely spoken gentleman explains it all without once saying anus, bum, bottom, harris, poop-chute or – pardon my French – derriere. Link below:

British Pathe: Froghoppers

7 thoughts on “Cuckoo Spit and Xylella

  1. Pingback: June 2021 – Week Two | rambling ratz

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