The spit on the grass!

The spit on the grass!

Next time you notice foamy stuff on the grasses in your garden, do not shy away. Take a closer look and you could spot a spittle bug.

Yuck! Why are people so disgusting and dirty. Why would someone go and spit in such a beautiful place — it’s a lovely forest patch for goodness sake! I was irritated and angry and these thoughts went whirling through my head while I stared at the fresh spit right there in front of me on the blades of grass. The early morning sun rays also made “the thing” shine and glisten. Shudder . And then suddenly, I was puzzled. This spit is fresh. But, there’s no one else here but me and Pavithra, and Pavithra definitely is not the kind who will go around spitting everywhere. Oh, it’s everywhere! Now I see fresh blobs of spit on lots of blades of grass ahead of me. The combination of bewilderment and a hot head now meant that I no longer knew what was happening. These were the days before cell phones, Google and Wikipedia and so a typed search on a phone for “many spit like things on blades of grass” was not possible.

Pavithra was walking just in front of me peering through her binoculars looking for a woodpecker we had just heard. She saw my flushed face and heard me muttering under my breath and asked what the matter was, and when I told her, she howled with laughter. It’s a spittle bug you silly goose! It’s a bug which excretes this white foamy substance around it to protect it from predators and to insulate it from the heat and cold. She gently pushed aside some of the frothy stuff and showed me a tiny green bug-shaped insect nestled inside. We quickly covered it back with the froth because we did not want to disturb it, and the exposed insect may not survive without its protective covering.

My nature lesson learnt for the day, these were my next thoughts while I rubbed my hands in glee: this is a perfect readymade setup for me to trick an unsuspecting newbie. All I have to do is take someone to where the spittlebugs are, grumble to them about how dirty people are and then casually proceed to touch it and to be more dramatic, smell it as well! And if you decide to play this trick, tell me how it went and what were the reactions of your poor unsuspecting targets. But make sure to also tell them about the interesting and fascinating little spittlebug before they run away from you! Also, remember to not disturb the little bug and to always put it back in its natural state.

A bug's life

The spittle bug nymph (ie, a young one) produces its white frothy substance from the sap it sucks out of a plant (often a clump of grass) and because of this some species are considered to be serious agricultural pests

The froth with which the spittle bug covers itself is also called cuckoo spit or snake spit (although, of course, it's neither!).

The adults look like regular bugs and are called planthoppers or froghoppers. Their name is a giveaway: they spring from plant to plant and can jump almost 100 times their length!

Spittle bug is a bug which excretes this white foamy substance around it to protect it from predators and to insulate it from the heat and cold

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