Mineral content of excreta from the spittlebug Philaenus spumarius closely matches that of xylem sap

Katherine Ponder, RJ Watson, M Malone, Jeremy Pritchard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)


Analysis of xylem sap from intact transpiring plants is possible using excerta of xylem feeding insects. However, the extent to which the inorganic composition of ingested sap is altered by its passage through the insect has not been fully evaluated. The impact of the xylem feeding insect Philaenus spumarius (meadow spittlebug) on the inorganic composition of ingested sap from tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) is reported here. Two nondestructive experimental approaches were used. Sap exuding due to root pressure from a cut tomato stem was compared with excreta from a caged insect feeding just below the cut surface. A second method involved pumping a solution of inorganic ions through a section of tomato stem upon which an adult insect was caged. The composition of insect excreta was compared with that of the input and output solutions. Overall, the concentrations of inorganic ions were similar in ingested fluid and excreta except for ammonium, which was generally elevated in excreta samples. It is demonstrated that excreta of P. spumarius can be used for continual monitoring of most inorganic ions in xylem sap of intact transpiring plants, and that stem perfusion is a useful tool for quantifying the effect of the insect on solutions of known composition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-242
Number of pages6
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2002


  • inorganic ions
  • xylem
  • Philaenus spumarius
  • spittlebug
  • xylem sap sampling


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