Garden Villain: The Leafhopper


Feeding on plant sap, leafhoppers are another villainous garden pest. Leafhoppers belong to the Cicadellidae family, and there are numerous species. Just as their name implies, these insects hop from plant to plant or when disturbed.

Ranging in size from approximately ¼- to ½-inch, wedge-shaped leafhoppers feed on plant sap using their sucking mouthparts, similar to their villainous sidekick, the aphid. Some species of leafhoppers are an agricultural nuisance, like the potato leafhopper and beet leafhopper. With the beet leafhopper direct feeding may only cause minor damage, but it can also transmit a virus known as ‘beet curly top virus,’ as well as other viruses. Beet curly top virus is destructive to sugarbeets, beans, tomatoes, and other crops. If plants are infected with this virus, the leaves may become crinkled, dwarfed, or rolled inward and upward; roots may become distorted; and plant veins may swell.

Leafhoppers often lay their eggs within plant tissue, so they are not always easily noticed. Yellowish-green, wingless beet leafhopper nymphs have the same wedge-shaped bodies as their adult counterparts, and the adult beet leafhopper is gray to greenish in color with folded wings.

When you’re in your garden and checking on your plants, keep an eye out for leafhoppers by checking plant stems and underneath leaves. Adult leafhoppers will hop if disturbed, but nymphs are wingless.

To help control leafhoppers in the garden shoot them off of your plants with a forceful stream of water or consider incorporating ladybugs, green lacewings, and/or praying mantises into your garden.

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