SOMETIMES people laugh at me for being happy with little plants and little things.
“Little things” they say, “please little minds”.
They fail to see or acknowledge that our ever-shrinking world contains not only people who appreciate little things, but diminutive birds, fish, tiny insects, and animalcules which are only visible with a microscope.
To turn away from little things is to be indifferent to nine-tenths of what this world contains.
Gardens, to cite just one example, are also full of ‘little things’, and indeed ‘little wonders’ not least the family of insects known as froghoppers.
I return to this totally harmless insect today for it is once again to be seen in large numbers in the garden and out in the countryside.
Their colloquial name, popular and very apt, is 'cuckoo spit', taken no doubt from the frothy mass of bubbles which surrounds the larval stage of each immature froghopper and which appears around the time of the cuckoo’s arrival.
The camouflage is perfect you must agree, and because of this they are seldom in danger from insect-eating birds and other small animals such as frogs and toads.
Their common name as outlined is derived from the ‘spit’ and in the Americas and some parts of Europe this ‘spit’ has the more common name spittlebug.
The adult frog hopper is, in fact, rated as a bug, and in appearance is like a tiny, fat, grasshopper.
Being green in colour the insect is hard to spot in foliage and with its excellent mobility is even harder to catch.
Seen most frequently on soft green shoots (older stems are too tough for its sap-sucking jaws) the froghopper larvae develop into the adult stage before the onset of autumn.
It may, depending on the species, turn brown in colour, its wing cases will harden, and it will leap and fly in joyful abandon having forsaken its frothy lair, well before the arrival of late August.
On roses and fuchsia, the froghopper may cause stems and shoots to become distorted, and leaves wilt and curl.
Apart from these, perennials such as asters and campanulas, fall victim regularly. Blackberries, raspberries, rosemary, and many members of the carnation (dianthus) family are also on the bugs list of desirables.
The young feed on the plant’s sap whilst the adults damage the leaves.
Easily controlled by spraying the effected plants with a forceful jet of water.
There is seldom a need to resort to such drastic measures as using chemicals to control the spittlebug.