Scientists warn of foamy substance on plants that could spread disease

Attention gardeners! Scientists warn of foamy substance on plants that should not be touched

Scientists have warned of a substance appearing on plants this summer that could potentially be toxic to your garden.

As the warmer weather means many of us are starting to spend more time outside, gardeners are being asked to be on the lookout for little foam beads on the leaves that they shouldn’t be touching.

The small foamy discharges called saliva are produced by an insect called the saliva bug.

While sucking sap from a plant for sustenance, the insect encases itself in a ball of foam for protection, which is often left on plants and grass.

However, scientists have previously raised concerns that the saliva bugs could be carriers of a deadly plant disease called Xyella.

The salivary bugs pierce and suck cell sap from plants, secreting a foam-like white substance

The salivary bugs pierce and suck cell sap from plants, secreting a foam-like white substance

Should Xyella be found in the UK, strict measures would be taken to prevent its spread as it has the potential to wipe out plant species native to the UK.

Any crop found to be carrying Xyella is destroyed, as are all other crops within a 100m radius.

In addition, a 5km plant quarantine would be maintained for five years to ensure no spread.

Scientists are asking people to report all sightings of the spit beetle, just in case, so any outbreaks that do occur can be linked to causes and tracked.

bug life; The common waterhopper (Philaenus spumarius) is also called spit bug or cuckoo spit insect, pictured on a plant

bug life; The common waterhopper (Philaenus spumarius) is also called spit bug or cuckoo spit insect, pictured on a plant

The cuckoo's saliva shield protects the nymph of a cicada spit bug and is a common sight in gardens at this time of year

The cuckoo’s saliva shield protects the nymph of a cicada spit bug and is a common sight in gardens at this time of year

The red and black spit beetle catches its offspring, called cicadas, on plants that contain the foam.

The insect is usually active from late May to late June, which means it’s peak sighting season right now.

Overall, the living things don’t take out enough nutrients to harm the plants, and they don’t harm humans either. However, due to the potential risk of spreading the plant disease, gardeners are advised to keep an eye on the saliva bugs

A spokesman for the Spittlebug survey said Yorkshire Live: “Please let us know if you see saliva, nymphs (juveniles) or adults of the xylem-eating insects (spit bugs/hoppers and some leafhoppers) that have the potential to act as carriers of the bacteria.”

Edmun Deche

Edmun Deche is a WSTPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Edmun Deche joined WSTPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: demarche@wstpost.com.

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