The Beet Leafhopper occurs throughout the western United States. While the nymphs and adults damage plants by sucking plant juices from foliage of host plants causing leaves to turn brown and appear "burnt"; their worst damage is caused by vectoring Beet Curly Top Geminivirus. They vector the curly top virus disease on crops such as beans, melons, peppers, sugar beets, tomatoes, spinach, squash, and other plants. This disease causes curling of the leaves which later become brittle. Plants are stunted and frequently die.
The beet leafhopper is attacked by several parasites and predators which help regulate the population in some areas. Elimination of weed hosts in waste areas can help reduce breeding areas of this pest.
An Adult Beet Leafhopper is about 0.12" long. They are wedge-shaped and gray or greenish-yellow. They are often marked with black or brown areas on the forewings, head, and thorax. Nymphs resemble adults except in size and absence of wings. Nymphs become spotted with red and brown as they mature.
Control of leafhoppers is difficult. Sprays of insecticides have not proven helpful in controlling this pest. It is recommended that control begin with ensuring that weeds are managed and removed to reduce overwintering hosts.
The bio-rational fungus Beauveria bassiana is a recent addition to the products that help control Beet Leafhoppers. Safe to use on good crops, it can be applied at the first sign of the pest or when infestations are heavy.
For information about related insects please see our Leafhopper and Planthopper Control page.