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Things to Expect & Do
Ants: The Good, the
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Landscaping with Good
Speaking of Spinach
Invasive Plant Notes
Harvest Time Puzzle
Go Native with
Can You Identify This
Homing in on Jojoba
The Plant Vampires
Of Friendships &
Fall Garden Festival
The Plant Vampires
by Ellen Wait,
What better time than Halloween to talk about...THE PLANT VAMPIRES!
These insects belong to the order Homoptera (homo- meaning same, and ptera-
meaning wing). The order includes about 42,000 species. With the exception of
the cicadas and some fulgorids, most specie members are small. Common names
include plant hoppers, treehoppers, lantern bugs, aphids, whiteflies, scale, and
the dreaded leafhopper.
These insects have earned the "vampire" label because they pierce tiny holes in
plant tissue and suck out the sap. They produce honeydew, and often cause
chlorosis and leaf curl in the host plant. They are exclusively terrestrial
feeders and perhaps the most damaging order of insects to agronomic crops. In
addition to direct feeding damage, many carry plant viruses.
Belonging to the family Cicadellidae, leafhoppers are
small (rarely growing larger than 13mm) yet destructive.
They are distinguished from other families by the presence of one or more rows
of spines extending the full length of the hind tibia. Some are marked with
bright colors. Immature leafhoppers can't fly, but the mature ones have wings.
They hop around erratically when disturbed.
Leafhoppers may feed on almost any type of plant, and have strong habitat
affinities. They particularly like beans, beets, potatoes, and fruit trees.
Cell growth is often inhibited on the underside of leaves where they feed.
They bring a special kind of misery to tomatoes in the form of "curly top"
virus, which stunts the plant and causes hard, leathery leaves. Branches become
stiff and erect, and the veins turn purple. Fruit, if any is produced, is
deformed. Curly top will eventually kill the plant. The virus cannot be
communicated from plant to plant; the leafhopper must carry the virus and inject
it into the plant with its vampire bite. There is no treatment for curly top;
affected plants must be removed and disposed of. But NOT in your compost pile!
WHEN LEAFHOPPERS VISIT:
- Make a sticky trap with honey or
molasses on a piece of stiff cardboard and wave it over the plants. Disturbed
and disoriented leafhoppers will stick to the boards, which can then be
- Invite predators into your garden. Assassin bugs like
sunflowers; lacewings enjoy citrus; and hover flies flock to cosmos, dwarf
morning glories, marigolds and spearmint.
- Try a Garlic-Pepper spray: (Wear
gloves for this task). Liquefy three bulbs of garlic and five cayenne peppers
in a blender with two cups of water. Strain off all the solids and add enough
water to make one gallon. This is your concentrate. Use only 1/4 cup of
concentrate to make a gallon of solution. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to
each gallon of solution in your sprayer.
- Be grateful you are not dealing
with the leafhopper's cousin, the sharpshooter, who shares many of the charming
qualities of the leafhopper AND practices "projectile defecation." It's not
Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated October 4, 2003
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to Maricopafirstname.lastname@example.org 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
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