meadow spittlebug

(Philaenus spumarius)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

meadow spittlebug


NNR - Unranked


not listed


Widespread and common to abundant


Early June through late September


Parks, meadows, gardens, fields, marshes, and swamps.


Total Length:

Photo by Alfredo Colon

Meadow spittlebug is a small, jumping insect. It is widespread across Europe, Asia, and North America. In the United States is most common east of the Great Plains and west of the Rocky Mountains. Minnesota marks the western extent of its eastern range in the U.S.. In Minnesota, it is common to abundant in the east, mostly absent from the west.

The adult is wedge-shaped, heavy-bodied, and about long. It has a blunt, rounded head, large eyes, and very short antennae. It has specialized, needle-like mouth parts enabling it to suck on plant parts. The body is usually tan to dull brown, sometimes gray or mottled, and is variably patterned with brown, black and white. There are only 1 or 2 spines on the hind tibia. The wings have raised veins and are held like a tent over the body.

The nymph is shaped similar to the adult but is smaller, about ¼ long. In the first stage (instar) of growth the nymph is orange and wingless. In the second through fourth stages it is yellow and wingless. In the fifth (last) stage it is pale green and it develops wings. Nymphs produce frothy masses (spittle). The spittle may contain one or several nymphs, and is the primary indication of the presence of spittlebugs.



Nymph Food

A wide variety of plants, but especially red clover and alfalfa.

Adult Food

Over 400 species of plants, especially red clover, alfalfa, wheat, common oat, corn, and garden strawberry.

Life Cycle

Only one generation is produced each year. In late August and September, masses of up to 18 to 51 eggs are deposited 3 to 6 above the ground between a leaf sheath and stem of a host plant. The eggs overwinter and hatch in late April and May. Newly hatched nymphs immediately begin feeding where they hatch, near the base of the plant. They pierce the plant and suck on the sap. Later, they move up the plant, seeking sheltered, humid areas, such as leaf sheaths and folded leaves, or producing masses of spittle on tender foliage and blossom clusters. The spittle protects the nymphs from predators and from drying out. The nymph matures in June after 5 to 8 weeks.


Adults do not produce spittle. They are relatively slow moving, but are the champion jumpers among insects, able to jump up to 27½ vertically. The jump is powerful, generating up to 400 gravities, and produces an audible thump.

Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 7.


Most infected plants wilt and become stunted, resulting in reduced yield.



Hemiptera (true bugs, cicadas, hoppers, aphids and allies)


No Rank:



No Rank:




Auchenorrhyncha (free-living hemipterans)









Aphrophoridae (spittlebugs)


Cicada spumarius


common froghopper

cuckoo spit

meadow froghopper

meadow spittlebug









The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot).























Visitor Photos
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Alfredo Colon
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  Meadow Spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Meadow Spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius)  
  Meadow Spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius)
Bill Keim
  Meadow Spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius)  



Visitor Videos
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Other Videos
  Wiesenschaumzikade (Philaenus spumarius)
Chrigu wälti

Published on Dec 5, 2012

Wiesenschaumzikade (Philaenus spumarius)

  Meadow Spittlebug (Aphrophoridae: Philaenus spumarius) Adult
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on May 27, 2010

Photographed at the Rydell NWR, Minnesota (27 May 2010). Go here to learn more about this species:

  Meadow Spittlebug Nymph (Cercopidae: Philaenus spumarius) on Clover
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Jun 15, 2011

This is an early instar nymph. Go here to see a larger image of this organism: / Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (14 June 2011).

  Meadow Spittlebug (Cercopidae: Philaenus spumarius) on Grass Stem
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Jun 30, 2010

Photographed at Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (30 June 2010). Go here to learn more about this species:




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Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

meadow spittlebug





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