Leafhoppers are small insects with long legs and wings. They have a yellowish color, which changes into brown or black. Their body is covered with hairs (like ants) but they do not sting. They feed on plant sap and sometimes even other insects such as flies, beetles, caterpillars and spiders. Some species are known to eat aphids too!
The adult female lays eggs inside the leaves of various plants. She can lay up to 1000 eggs per day! The larvae pupate in the soil where they grow until they become adults. After mating, the male dies and the females continues her egg laying activity.
What Causes Leafhopper Damage?
There are many reasons why leafhoppers damage your plants. Here are some of them:
Poor light levels – Poor lighting conditions cause leafhopper damage. Too much sun, too little light, insufficient ventilation and so on can all lead to leafhopper infestation. You may need to replace the lights in your greenhouse or houseplants if there is no proper ventilation. If you use fluorescent bulbs, make sure they don’t emit enough UV rays to kill the bugs!
Too much watering – While over-watering is usually not an issue, if you find leafhoppers on your plants, you should stop watering them. This is especially true for houseplants.
Leaf Defects – Look carefully at the edge of the leaves to see if there are any holes made by leafhoppers. The honeydew they leave behind can attract ants and mold as well. You should try to eliminate leafhoppers as soon as you notice them.
Too much nitrogen – Excess nitrogen in your soil leads to tender new growth which is very attractive to leafhoppers. To avoid this, you should use a slow-release fertilizer, which releases the nutrients gradually. You can also reduce or stop fertilizing your plants during the fall and winter.
Not Enough Light – During the summer, leafhoppers can damage your plants when they try to hide from direct sunlight. This can happen with tall plants (like lettuces) that don’t get enough light or are partially shaded by other plants. If the leaves turn yellowish and begin to fall off, this might be due to leafhoppers feeding on them.
Clumps of soil – You may find clumps of soil on the floor or on the plants. This means that slugs or snails have caused damage to your plants at night. You can pick them off and destroy them. Use beer traps to eliminate slugs and snails in the long term.
What Do Leafhoppers Eat?
Leafhoppers are known to eat more than 300 different kinds of plants, including vegetables, fruits, grain, flowers and trees. They prefer tender new growth and they suck the sap with their needle-like mouthparts. As a result, the leaves turn yellow and begin to die. You may notice clumps of soil on the floor or on the plants as well.
What Do Leafhoppers Look Like?
Leafhoppers are very small insects, measuring around 0.5 inches long (1 cm). Their color varies between species, depending on their diet. Usually they are green, brown or gray in color and they have wings. Their body is covered with small hairs. You can see short legs near their head and long antennae. The young nymphs are similar to the adults, but they are smaller in size.
Do Leafhoppers Fly?
Most leafhoppers do not have wings and are also known as shrub hoppers. They have been given this name because of their ability to leap. The winged kind of leafhoppers are known as jumper bugs. They can fly only for short distances.
Do Leafhoppers Bite?
Leafhoppers do not bite. They suck the sap of plants with their needle-like mouthparts.
Do Leafhoppers Have Any Natural Enemies?
Spiders feed on leafhoppers. Birds and larger insects will also eat them. You can use these natural predators to your advantage if you want to get rid of leafhopper infestations.
How To Get Rid of Leafhoppers
1. Soap Spray
You Will Need:
5 tablespoons of liquid dishwashing soap
1 gallon of water
What You Have To Do:
Add the liquid soap to the water and mix well. Pour this mixture into a spray bottle.
Spray the leaves of your plants thoroughly until they are wet.
Allow the plants to dry in the sun.
This is a very safe way of getting rid of leafhoppers and it is also effective against other insects.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
You Will Need:
1 cup of food-grade diatomaceous earth
What You Have To Do:
Every week, starting from two weeks before the first sighting of leafhoppers, dust your crops with diatomaceous earth.
Sources & references used in this article:
Neonicotinoid seed treatments for managing potato leafhopper infestations in snap bean by BA Nault, AG Taylor, M Urwiler, T Rabaey… – Crop Protection, 2004 – Elsevier
The costs of anti‐herbivore defense traits in agricultural crop plants: a case study involving leafhoppers and trichomes by I Kaplan, GP Dively, RF Denno – Ecological Applications, 2009 – Wiley Online Library
Variegated and western grape leafhoppers by KM Daane, MJ Costello – Raisin production manual, 2000 – ucanr.org
Effects of potato leafhoppers on soybean plant growth and yield by KV Yeargan, SK Braman, WE Barney – Journal of the Kansas Entomological …, 1994 – JSTOR
Risk assessment of grape berry moth and guidelines for management of the eastern grape leafhopper by T Martinson, C Hoffman, T Dennehy, J Kamas… – 1991 – ecommons.cornell.edu
Leafhopper damage to silage corn in California by RW Bushing, VE Burton – Journal of Economic Entomology, 1974 – academic.oup.com
Influence of nonhost plant diversity and natural enemies on the potato leafhopper, Empoasca fabae, and pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, in alfalfa by CS Straub, NP Simasek, MR Gapinski, R Dohm… – Journal of pest …, 2013 – Springer
The role of Bordeaux mixture as a leafhopper insecticide by DM DeLong – Journal of Economic Entomology, 1929 – academic.oup.com
Feeding Behavior of the Potato Leafhopper (Homoptera: Cicadellidae) on Chlordime form-and Phosmet-Treated Alfalfa by AC Wayadande, EA Backus – Journal of economic entomology, 1989 – academic.oup.com