Cuckoo spit

by Kate Bradbury

Yesterday I discovered cuckoo spit on my red valerian (Centranthus ruber). It's considered a pest by many gardeners, but, for me, it's a symbol of great achievement...

Cuckoo spit on red valerianYesterday I discovered cuckoo spit on my red valerian (Centranthus ruber). It's considered a pest by many gardeners, but, for me, it's a symbol of great achievement: I've successfully converted a barren, paved courtyard into a lush, green (albeit tiny) garden.

The garden isn't perfect and I've a long way to go, but I've documented my success by the variety of garden visitors I've gained since the transformation: blue tits and great tits, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, slugs, snails and leaf miners (the last three new residents I'm less delighted about). And now the froghopper nymph, which is happily undergoing its own transformation in the safe cocoon of cuckoo spit on my valerian.

Froghopper nymph on upper surface of a leafAs a child I was fascinated by cuckoo spit. No-one explained what it was, so I'd look to the sky for answers, hoping I'd see a cuckoo swoop down and spit on the plants. It was only a few years ago that I learned about the froghopper nymph, which protects itself from predators and dehydration in a coating of froth, before emerging as an adult.

Froghopper adults are fascinating too. Apparently their colouring can vary according to their location, and it's thought that urban froghoppers are darker than their cousins in the country.

If you can deal with the unsightly globules of 'spit' on your prized plants, leave them to get on with it. The nymphs and adults suck sap from plant stems, but in such small quantities they rarely cause leaf distortion. I don't mind even if they do - I like them.

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Gardeners' World Web User 05/06/2010 at 10:20

arrrrrrrrrrh is that what it is,,,i have noticed this spit on many of my plants this week...i to like you kate have a very tiny garden it was awful when i moved in and over the years transformed it completly its really lovely cottage garden look ,i have got much wildlife to ,frogs,toads,newts,to many birds to mension and a bliming bees-nest ...[tree bumble-bees],foxes,fox-cubs and monkjack deer,mice in shed,the list is endless but i love it all and the most wonderful thing is there is so much more to find out and know .my garden is approx 22ftwide by 22ft lenght but brill news i have managed to buy some land to the side of my garden so that will give me an extra nearly 40 ft....already designing in my head....cant wait...

Gardeners' World Web User 05/06/2010 at 13:17

Ah muddyboots I wondered if they might be tree bumblebees, hope you are getting on ok with them as neighbours. I have male tree bumblebees scent marking over my garden at the moment, it's fascinating to watch. Hope some females turn up for them soon! Your garden sounds lovely. Just read about your woodpecker and blue tits. How horrible! Poor you!

Gardeners' World Web User 05/06/2010 at 14:39

called cuckoo spit as it appear in late spring at a time when the familiar call of cuckoos can be heard

Gardeners' World Web User 05/06/2010 at 16:40

Hi Kate, I started a garden in a very similar way a few years ago. When I started out I had an expanse of gravel and an overgrown Cotoneaster. Now you can't move for plants. It's amazing how quickly animals notice the change and respond making your garden their home. I love having insects and birds buzzing around when I'm in the garden and judge this as a true success. If only more people could appreciate it. Ryan (

Gardeners' World Web User 05/06/2010 at 17:58

hi kate ,do you mean that there will be more bees [females] waiting to enter the nest .... well i think they are tree-bees as i e-mailed the person you gave a link to,and stephanie replied to me.. unfortunatley i was stung today on the eye-brow...not good not good....very sore...'i dont know mother nature'. not good news about blue-tits being attack by woodpecker but i now have a woodcrete birdbox up ready for next years blue-tits... do i have to take cockoo spit of my plants or just leave well alone???

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