I have what looks like saliva appearing on several different plants in my flower garden. The substance is not sticky and has no obvious source. Any ideas what it is and how to get rid of it?
Spittlebugs are sucking insects of the order Homoptera, family Cercopidae. They are not true bugs but rather closely related to leafhoppers and are sometimes called froghoppers. The remarkable thing about spittlebugs is the frothy mass (children call it frog spit) enveloping the nymphs. This spittle is a combination of a fluid voided from the bug's anus and a mucilaginous substance secreted by glands on the 7th and 8th abdominal segments, mixed with air drawn in between a pair of plates under the abdomen. The mixture is forced out under pressure, as from a bellows, to make uniform bubbles. The tail, going up and down, operates the bellows and keeps the bubbles coming. As soon as the first bubbles are formed, the nymph reaches back with its legs and hooks onto the globules, dragging them forward to its head. The greenish nymph is soon hidden under a mound of snow-white foam, protected from sun and preying insects.
Many spittlebugs are relatively harmless but several are economically injurious to plants. Spray with a general-purpose insecticide for control.