Leafhoppers & Planthoppers

Leafhoppers are one of the most abundant groups of plant feeding insects in the world with leafhopper and planthopper species outnumbering that of all species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians combined! Many species are host specific with their names indicating their preferred host; e.g. rose leafhopper, grape leafhopper, potato leafhopper, etc. Leafhoppers are wedge shaped and vary in color depending on species. Their name references leafhoppers' affinity for hopping off of leaf surfaces when disturbed.

Life Cycle:

The life cycle of leafhoppers is an incomplete metamorphosis as they hatch from eggs and mature through multiple nymphal stages before reaching adulthood. Eggs are inserted into plant tissue by adult females where they can overwinter protected from the elements and any predators. Eggs inserted in the tissue create "pimple-like" injuries that are more noticeable than the insects themselves. Hatching begins in spring once temperatures are high enough. Nymphs are the product of the hatching process and resemble adults, although they are wingless. To reach adulthood nymphs molt between four and five times over the course of 2-7 weeks. Many species of leafhoppers complete two or more generations each year.

Damage:

Leafhopper damage is characterized by light-colored speckling on plant leaves caused by the leafhoppers sucking sap and plant juices from within the plant tissue. Left unchecked, this gradual feeding reduces the plant's vigor over time, browning the leaves. Damage caused by leafhoppers is usually not severe enough to seriously harm mature plants; however, young plants or new growth can be stunted and/or deformed by leafhopper feeding. Transmission of disease is a concern with select species of leafhoppers and the honeydew produced by some can aid in the propagation of fungal diseases; e.g. Beet leafhoppers vector curly top virus.

Leafhopper Control:

Control measures should be taken at the first sight of eggs/nymphs or damage as adult leafhoppers are difficult to control due to their mobility.

  • Remove overwintering sites by disposing of garden debris and waste immediately upon harvesting.
  • Row covers and shade cloth (Harvest Guard) can be used as physical barriers to limit leafhopper access to plants.
  • General Predators like Green Lacewing, Ladybugs and Assassin Bugs will consume all stages of leafhoppers, but are less effective controlling adults.
  • Diatomaceous Earth and Surround WP (kaolin clay) can be applied to leaf and fruit surfaces to deter leafhopper feeding. Both provide a physical barrier as well as insecticidal properties once leafhoppers come in contact with them.
  • If immediate control is necessary, use fast-acting insecticides like Pyrethrins or Azadirachtin to suppress leafhopper populations. Insecticides can offer you immediate control and enough of a knockdown that beneficials may be introduced later for more lasting control.

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