The Philaneus spumarius, simply and commonly known as Spittoon, is a cosmopolitan family of insects of the order of the Rincoti Omotteri. Their presence is clearly visible in spring, on our ornamental plants, especially herbaceous ones, due to the presence of a sticky white foam, similar to a spit.
The adults are small butterflies with a colour, between the pale brown and the blackish, about 5 mm long. The females lay about 400 eggs in the bark of the trees during the summer period. The eggs spend the winter and then hatch in spring, releasing the larvae that migrate into the nearby weed plants. For example, I have them in the Galliards. The larvae feed on sap, release and cover themselves with a foamy liquid, which is nothing more than the waste of their intestines, useful for protecting themselves from the attacks of predators.
The adults, with the appearance of small butterflies, move again on the trees flying or jumping, where they will lay their eggs again.
Damage To Vegetation, Fighting, And Remedies
In itself, the insect is not considered harmful, especially for the vegetation of our home or small vegetable gardens, except for particular years where you may incur an increase in population and therefore direct and indirect damage. Direct damage is caused by stings for nutrition, causing discoloration and deformation of the plant, indirect damage is caused by the foam that release the spit machines, making the vegetation look bad. But the latter can be solved by washing our affected plant on the terrace or in the garden, using a water jet gun.
The adult, on the other hand, has been identified as a possible vector of the annoying Xylella, the terrible disease that has affected olive trees since 2013 in Puglia. To transmit this disease, the insect must be infected in turn. Therefore, by feeding through its stinging apparatus, it can acquire the bacterium potentially present in the plant.
The fight against spittoon in our ornamental and horticultural plants is based on prevention. It means that it is advisable to remove the herbaceous plants that grow spontaneously in the garden, or reduce the vegetation of ornamental herbaceous plants, grown on the terrace or in the garden during the periods of April and May. In this way we would reduce the host plants for machine spit larvae, thus also reducing the likely adult vectors of Xylella, giving a little help to farmers.