Cuckoo Spit & Froghoppers
Several years ago I recall seeing lots of white, bubbly ‘spit’ on flowers, leaves and stems and wondering what it was. On enquiry I found it was “cuckoo spit”, which didn’t really help my over active imagination as however hard I tried, I couldn’t picture a bird that’s synonymous with spring with such a bad habit? Surely this couldn’t be?
So I looked it up. I very quickly found that the connection between the unsavoury looking froth and cuckoos is tenuous. You’re most likely to see the ‘spit’ in your garden at the same time as you hear the cuckoo sing – from late spring onwards. The birds have nothing whatsoever to do with it’s production.
What is cuckoo spit?
It’s a fluid that’s secreted by a rather cute little insect that’s a nypmh of a Froghopper. The nymph is quite a shy little thing. As soon as you remove the froth from around it, it scuttles off trying to hide (hence my slightly out of focus attempts at capturing it).
Although a sap sucker, the nymph will do no harm to your plants unless it’s been feeding at the very tips of them, in which case they may distort slightly. As the nymphs develop into adulthood, they will stop producing the froth and if you look closely you may spot them hanging around on plants as larger versions of their current selves.
At the moment there are little globules of froth on my strawberries and tarragon but because the nymphs generally don’t do any harm, I’m leaving them alone. Occasionally I aim the hose at them and give them a soaking which cleans the plants up a bit before I stick my hand in and start to harvest, but apart from that, I don’t mind the nymphs hanging out in the polytunnel – who could blame them…
Have you spotted the froth and been surprised by what you found enclosed within it? If you’d like to find out more about froghoppers, take a look at this BBC News Science/Nature story which tells us what insect jumping champions they are too!