Garden Pests That Leave White Milky Deposits on Plants


There are over 100,000 pests that are commonly found in North American gardens. Several of these are white, especially in a larva stage. The most likely source of white and milky foam on a plant is the spittle bug, according to University of Florida Extension. Other bugs that can give the appearance of white substances on plants are mealy bugs and tent caterpillars.

Spittle bugs

  • Spittle bugs leave a white milky deposit where leaves and stems meet. This white foam does look like a blob of spit. This conceals immature or adult bugs, but does little harm to the plant. Spittle bugs do suck sap from the plant and are unsightly, but are generally not a threat to the life of the plant.

Mealy Bugs

  • Mealy bugs are a common pest. They are 1/16 to 1/18 inch long and covered in a white powder or waxy substance. The white mass will also cover the egg masses. The white residue left by mealy bugs resembles cotton. These bugs will damage a root system as well as cause leaf mold.


  • Many deciduous trees have a white nest stretched across two or three close branches. This nest contains tent caterpillars. These caterpillars forage on the leaves by day and return to the nest at night. Some caterpillars will eat flowers from the branches as well. This bug usually appears in the spring.

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  • Photo Credit caterpillars image by igor kisselev from
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