Many of us will have seen spittle on plants in late spring and wondered what caused them. The answer is the immature stages of froghoppers, also known as a spittlebugs or cuckoo-spit insects. Ten species can be found in Britain, and Alan Stewart and Claire Harkin provide an identification key to the adults of British froghoppers and an overview of their ecology.
Most people will have noticed the small balls of spittle that appear on plants in late spring – evidence of the immature or nymphal stages of froghoppers, known also as spittlebugs or cuckoo-spit insects (the latter originally coined because the appearance of spittle often coincides with hearing the first call of Cuckoos Cuculus canorus). These insects, which feed exclusively on plant sap, belong to the order Hemiptera: the ‘true bugs’, with two pairs of wings and with mouthparts designed for piercing and sucking.