Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Spittlebug spittle

with 28 comments

Spittlebug Spittle 3631

Here’s a picturesque mass of spittlebug spittle at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on June 1 (though I don’t know how many other people would call it picturesque). This has been a common sight around central Texas in the month since then.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 1, 2015 at 5:38 AM

28 Responses

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  1. Not only picturesque, but downright elegant in my opinion. https://sggphoto.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/07-24-2014-brickyard-dew-drops/
    It is interesting that seen from a distance the bubbles appear white until we get closer and see their clarity.

    Steve Gingold

    July 1, 2015 at 5:48 AM

    • I remember your spittlebug spittle picture from a year ago (welcome to July). I think I’ve still never seen a mass of it that’s as goblet-shaped as the one you found to photograph.

      I’ve noticed the same thing you pointed out, that from a distance these little frothy masses seem whiter than they do when seen close-up. That works in our favor as photographers because we’re more easily able to spot spittlebug spittle from afar.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2015 at 6:03 AM

      • In looking at my words “spot spittlebug spittle” it occurred to me that from spit English has made spittle but from spot there’s not spottle. Then I did a search and discovered that spottle exists.

        Steve Schwartzman

        July 1, 2015 at 7:57 AM

  2. We have many of those around here. Have you ever looked inside the spittle wad for the little surprise?

    “The spittle is a mixture of watery waste; air, which is blown through abdominal openings to make bubbles; and a glandular secretion.” I didn’t know bugs farted.

    Jim in IA

    July 1, 2015 at 6:56 AM

    • In answer to your question: yes. When I co-led a nature walk in Great Hills Park in May I pointed out some spittlebug spittle and explained to a mother and her son what caused it. The son then used a twig or something similar to push away some of the spittle and reveal the insect inside.

      People are smart enough to know something’s inside the froth, but apparently a lot of would-be predators aren’t that smart, or maybe the smaller ones can’t easily penetrate the bubbles.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2015 at 7:06 AM

    • I am not trying to steal Steve’s traffic, but click the link I posted above for a picture of a spittle bug. It’s not inside spittle bubbles, but I wouldn’t choose to disturb a farting bug. 🙂

      Steve Gingold

      July 1, 2015 at 7:07 AM

  3. Growing up in Alabama where there are lots of poisonous snakes, we called this snake spit. Of course we were too naive to imagine that an insect could create the bubbles. When we saw the stems with the bubbles we gave the plants a wide berth. Thanks for all the clarity. 😉


    July 1, 2015 at 7:16 AM

    • I’ve never heard the imaginative term snake spit used for this, so thanks for mentioning it. I just did a search and found the following on a state webpage from Louisiana: “Clumps of foam found on shrubs and vines in Louisiana are sometimes thought to be ‘snake spit,’ but this foam is produced by spittle bugs.” You’re not alone. Maybe it’s a southern usage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2015 at 7:47 AM

  4. Thanks for the new way of seeing this phenomenon.


    July 1, 2015 at 8:05 AM

  5. Me encanta esta imagen, cada vez que veo esta espumita -nido de la puesta de este insecto- le hago fotos. Te ha salido estupenda.

    • No me había dado cuenta de este sentido de puesta: ‘acción de poner huevos’. Esta espuma se ve a menudo en junio.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2015 at 3:48 PM

  6. The spittle bubbles are quite fascinating and beautiful up close.

    Emily Scott

    July 1, 2015 at 3:30 PM

  7. Interesting spittlebug.

    Raewyn's Photos

    July 1, 2015 at 4:29 PM

  8. That is gorgeous!! Looks decidedly like a Zentangle (patterned art) which I practice frequently. Our world is filled with natural patterns and I love discovering ones like ours. Others see ‘ick’; I see wondrous … Eye of beholder!

    Sammy D.

    July 1, 2015 at 4:44 PM

    • Eye of the beholder it is, especially if that can turn ick into wonder.
      I had to look up Zentangle. Whether spittlebugs have done likewise, or vice versa, I don’t know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2015 at 4:55 PM

  9. Is this what we call cuckoo spit?


    July 1, 2015 at 5:16 PM

  10. Very attractive, and a reminder of a not so attractive game we used to play as children which involved seeing who could produce the most spittle froth.


    July 1, 2015 at 10:31 PM

  11. I was reminded of the book Patterns in Nature by Marcus Schneck – mainly because of the geometric shapes of the bubbles.

    Robert Kamper

    July 2, 2015 at 8:40 AM

    • I’m sorry that I don’t know that book, but I’ve seen others along similar lines. Patterns are fascinating, that’s for sure.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2015 at 11:13 AM

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