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Wildflower Watch: Watch for signs of spittlebugs on walks or in the garden

Whether on a hiking trail or in your garden, you have probably seen small white sticky, frothy masses on plants. These are the bubble homes of spittlebugs, related to aphids and cicadas in the order of Hemiptera, identified by botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1758. On a recent hike on Mount Tamalpais, I noted healthy young coyote bushes on both sides of the trail. At a distance, they appeared to be covered with small white flowers. A puzzle — this couldn’t be. On closer examination, I discovered these were not flowers but a profusion of spittlebug houses. The white foam blobs are produced by the immature spittlebugs called nymphs. (Joan Lynn Bekins photo / For The Ark)

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