People are being asked to keep their eyes out for a garden phenomenon that looks like someone has spat on your plants. This strange froth could be linked to an invasive plant disease that could harm native species in the UK.
It’s called spittle and comes from the spittlebug, which covers itself in a ball of foam for protection as it sucks on plant sap for nutrition. The frothy substance that looks like spit is then left behind on plants and long grass, YorkshireLive reports.
The red and black creatures’ offspring, also known as froghoppers, then hatch on a plant which has the leftover ball of foam. People are now being urged to report any sightings of this froth
The spittlebug is usually active from the end of May to the end of June, so it’s peak season for sightings right now. Though the insects feed on the plants, they don’t remove enough nutrition to harm it and they don’t hurt humans, so you don’t need to do anything to get rid of the spittle.
Scientists are concerned that a deadly plant disease known as Xyella could be spread between plants by the spittlebug as a carrier. The Xyella disease has devastated olive groves in Italy in the past few years and experts have called Xyella one of the world’s most dangerous pathogens.
If it was found in the UK, all plants within a 100m radius would need to be destroyed, with a 5km plant quarantine for up to five years afterwards because the disease could wipe out native UK plant species.
And because the spittlebug is a potential carrier of the disease, scientists are asking people to report any sightings of the spittlebug foam, just in case, so that any outbreaks that do occur could be linked and tracked to what causes them.
A spokesperson for the Spittlebug survey said: “Please let us know when you see either spittle, nymphs (juveniles) or adults of the xylem-feeding insects (spittlebugs / froghoppers and some leafhoppers ) that have the potential to act as vectors of the bacteria.
“These records will help us build up a picture of where the bugs are found, what plants they feed on and how much they move around. This information will be essential for deciding how best to respond should the Xylella bacterium arrive in the UK.”
You can report a sighting here :