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Spittle Bug Froth

GARDEN GOOD GUY - PATIENCE
by Nanette Londeree, Consulting Rosarian

April showers often bring a lot more than May flowers. With the wonderful bounty of spring growth in the garden come some of the challenges. The active growth our roses go through this time of the year provide just the right environment for some of the unwanted harbingers of spring. Depending on weather and other conditions, these may seem like enough to make you want to get your shovel and turn your rose beds back into lawn. Lets start with those foamy little mounds around the stems of your new rosebuds – spittlebugs.

Spittlebugs, or froghoppers, are easily identified by the frothy, white foam that protects them from predators. They hatch in mid-spring and remain hidden for six to seven weeks. Winged adults emerge and continue to feed, but no longer form spittle.

Then come the even more unappetizing beasties – aphids. These unsightly, prolific pests don’t do much damage and generally don’t spread disease, but are offensive mostly because they look bad. Aphids love succulent new growth on your roses. They have high nitrogen requirements, and their population’s boom when plants receive a flush of nitrogen, just what your plants are producing with the lush new growth.

Have you seen big holes chewed in your leaves, or more appropriately, leaf skeletons? With half the bud on a new rose completely gone? If you look closely, more than likely you’ll see a plump, green caterpillar eating its way through the delectable plants. And probably the worst of these spring nuisances are the polka-dotted leaves that are turning bright yellow and falling off the plant as if it were fall. The cool temperatures this spring along with more rain bring about lots of blackspot, a disease that can easily defoliate a plant in a matter of days.

Caterpillar

So, what’s a gardener to do? Be patient! For most rosarians, during the winter and early spring, this comes naturally – we put those puny little bundle of sticks in the ground knowing that within a few months they will be transformed into a glorious blooming machine. We patiently watch as the new leaves unfurl and tiny buds begin to form. But then when it comes to the frustrations of spring pests, we often loose that ability to just wait it out. A French proverb says “Patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.” The spring maladies are certainly bitter, but those eminent roses are really sweet. The spittlebugs will disappear as soon as the weather warms, and if you find them unsightly, just hose them off. A similar treatment works with aphids, and hopefully with some good beneficial bugs in the garden (like ladybugs and soldier beetles), with a little time, their population will also slow down or disappear. The caterpillars, if not food for the birds, will go into their next stage of life, and be transformed into a beautiful butterfly to grace your garden with their delightful flutter. And that horrible blackspot will generally disappear as we enter our seasonal dry period.

Black Spot

There’s no doubt that these maladies are frustrating, and you can certainly reach for the insecticide or fungicide spray that will minimize or eliminate these nuisances. But if you do nothing, and are patient, they will most often take care of themselves. Your roses will put out lots of new growth so that whatever was damaged is history.

So consider, “What may not be altered is made lighter by patience” - Horace (65-8 BC) and sit back, relax, and enjoy your roses!


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Last Modified: 08/06/2013