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Cuckoo spit, begins to appear in late spring at a time when the familiar call of cuckoos can be heard, but otherwise has no connection with the bird.
Willow froghopper (Aphrophora alni) on willow (Salix sp.). Credit: RHS/Entomology.
Cuckoo spit is a white frothy liquid secreted by the nymphs of a sap-sucking true bug known as a froghopper. They are also known as spittlebugs.
Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterial disease of a wide range of plants and causes symptoms including leaf scorch, wilt, dieback and plant death. It is causing serious problems in Southern Europe but it has not been detected in Britain. The disease is spread by insects that feed on the xylem of plants. This includes froghoppers.
Xylella is not in the UK but could be introduced through the importation of infected plants. The RHS is a partner in a collaborative project which aims to understand and prevent the introduction of vector-borne plant pathogens, especially Xyllela, to the UK and the challenges they pose to the UK flora. The BRIGIT project has been funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Scottish Government to reduce this risk and to increase our capability to respond to an outbreak. The project is being undertaken by scientists in ten UK research organisations led by the John Innes Centre.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is calling on gardeners, nature lovers and citizen scientists to help the UK respond to the threat of Xylella fastidiosa. Working with the University of Sussex and Forest Research, we need thousands of volunteers to help map the distribution of spittlebugs. The data will help inform strategies to deal with any outbreak of Xylella in the UK.
Any sightings can be reported online here. Alternatively, please visit www.xylem feeding insects.co.uk
Spittlebugs are not a pest, so please don't remove them, but they are an innocent carrier of Xylella outside of the UK. The survey helps us gather data to inform a response should Xylella reach the UK.
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