CAN YOU PLEASE TELL ME WHAT THIS FOAMY THING IS AT­TACHED TO MY DWARF TI­BOUCH­INA TREE?

Gardening Australia - - MAILBOX -

Ker­rie Ste­wart, Bayview, NSW

MAR­TYN ROBIN­SON SAYS A very in­ter­est­ing in­sect is the cause of this. When I was a child, we called it ‘cuckoo spit’ and if you care­fully wipe away the foam you will find a tiny in­sect a bit like a tiny ci­cada nymph (to which it is dis­tantly re­lated). This is a true bug – as it sucks through­out its life – that be­longs in the su­per­fam­ily Cer­copoidea, not all mem­bers of which pro­duce this foam. The foam pro­tects it and hides it from preda­tors while it is flight­less and vul­ner­a­ble, but once it be­comes an adult with wings, it ceases to pro­duce the frothy byprod­uct of its feed­ing and lives a nor­mal sap-suck­ing life. If dan­ger threat­ens it can spring away and then take flight. While they are sap-suck­ing in­sects, they’re gen­er­ally not a huge prob­lem. I leave them be as I find them in­ter­est­ing to show visi­tors. Kids love wip­ing away the foam to find the tiny nymph!

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