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Pahavit's Universe

pahavit
Date: 4-23-2009 3:32 PM
Subject: Snakespit
Security: Public
Tags:insect, local insect, oh hai, snakespit, spittlebug
Snakespit


When I was a kid, snakespit is what everyone called the globs of foam seen on grass stalks in meadows in spring and summer. I imagined snakes malevolently slithering around in fields, rearing up and spitefully depositing a blob of their spit on the grass as a sort of evil calling card -- specifically to frighten children.



Of course, I learned a long time ago that snakes don't spit. But I didn't find out until about 8 years ago that snakespit is actually produced by a little bug, called a spittlebug. And it's not really spit, either. The spittlebug nymph crawls up a soft plant stem, turns upside-down and begins drinking sap. Part of this is used for food, but the rest of it gets mixed with waxy secretions which make it a sort of natural soap, and it gets excreted from the creature's butt in a foamy mass that shields it from predators, insulates it from temperature extremes and prevents it from dehydrating.

Lately I have seen lots of snakespit in the spearmint and lemon balm in the back yard, and today I got a pic of a spittlebug nymph just as it began to produce foam.

Oh hai.



Cute little thing, isn't it? It's about 1/4" long.


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