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Friday, March 31, 2023

Cuckoo spit/spittlebug foam on vegetation is innocent. Please depart it alone.

I’m normally delighted to see Eire’s Wildlife featured within the media — however a latest article revealed within the Gardening part of the RSVP Journal web site has me lower than thrilled.

Cuckoo Spit and Frog Hoppers - Spittle Bugs are not harmful
The nymph of the Frequent Frog Hopper creates Cuckoo Spit as a pure defence in opposition to desiccation and predation

The article in query sensationalises the connection between frog-hoppers/spittle bugs (their American identify) and a bacterial plant illness referred to as Xylella fastidiosa. Sure, in areas the place Xylella happens, sap-sucking bugs like frog-hoppers usually change into vectors by way of which the pathogen spreads to different close by vegetation, nonetheless, Xylella is NOT CAUSED by the insect, and the frothy spittle so frequent on vegetation all through the Irish countryside in early summer season IS NOT an indication of illness. Actually, it’s a completely regular a part of a wholesome Irish ecosystem.

Cuckoo Spit / Spittle / Foam is not harmful and is a natural part of a functioning Irish Ecosystem
Cuckoo spit on a plant within the backyard right here at IWHQ on the date of publication

Now we have by no means had a confirmed circumstances of Xyllela right here in Eire, and so they have recorded none to this point within the UK both. For now no less than, it merely doesn’t happen right here.

The RSVP Journal article latches on to a reputable name for data from scientist within the UK, and twists it into one thing altogether extra sinister. All of the scientists are asking for is for the general public to submit data of cuckoo spit and grownup frog-hoppers, serving to them to map their distribution. That information will assist them make extra knowledgeable choices on how finest to reply IF Xylella ever does arrive.

Simply to be 100% clear right here: these scientists are not suggesting cuckoo spit is in any means dangerous, they’re not calling for anybody to manage frog hoppers or eradicate cuckoo spit of their gardens or wherever else. They’re simply amassing information to higher perceive their distribution.

To summarise:

  • Xylella fastidiosa has by no means been recorded in Eire
  • Frog Hoppers / Spittle Bugs are widespread, frequent native Irish bugs
  • They DO NOT trigger illness in vegetation (though the place Xylella is current they’ll unfold it)
  • Cuckoo Spit is NOT A SIGN OF DISEASE: it’s a regular a part of a wholesome, functioning Irish ecosystem
  • There isn’t any viable cause to take away cuckoo spit from vegetation in your backyard

Discover out extra concerning the fascinating Frequent Frog Hopper right here. In the event you’re taken with discovering out extra concerning the state of affairs surrounding Xylella, right here’s a complete overview of Xylella and frog-hoppers within the UK that’s effectively introduced and fact-based.

The risks of poor reporting in a Biodiversity Disaster

No person is denying that Xylella is a severe illness, and has triggered devastation in elements of mainland Europe (significantly to Italian olive groves). Measures to manage and prohibit the unfold of the micro organism that causes the illness are fully warranted. What’s unwarranted is equivocal reporting that misrepresents the info, casting a innocent constituent of our native biodiversity because the villain in a contrived and appallingly inaccurate narrative.

Wildlife isn’t any stranger to being solid because the scapegoat for human-induced issues within the pure world, however amidst a biodiversity disaster, articles just like the RSVP one, that sensationalise danger, foster suspicion and demonise a local species, may be extremely damaging. We’ve been receiving emails and messages since this text went out from individuals asking how they’ll eradicate cuckoo spit from their backyard vegetation.

The reply, in fact, is you don’t have to do something. Because the BBC Gardener’s World web site advises “It’s finest to go away the froghoppers to get on with being froghoppers.”

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