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Past Articles Library | Organic Pest Control | Control Leafhoppers



Leafhoppers are one of the largest families of plant-feeding insects and are found almost anywhere vascular plants live, from tropical rainforests, to the arctic tundra. They are small, brightly colored insects that often feed on the stems and undersides of leaves for their sap, causing a mottled look. They can move very quickly when disturbed, making control difficult.



Adults are wedge-shaped, slender, 1/10 to 1/2 inch (2.5 to 12 mm) long. Many species have a broadly triangular head or pronounced forward point to the head. Most are brown or green, and some have bright bands of color on their wings. All species have well-developed hind legs and can jump very quickly into flight when disturbed. Nymphs are similar to the adults, but are paler in color and wingless; they hop quickly when disturbed.



Adults over winter, usually on or about wild host plants, and start laying eggs in the spring when leaves begin to emerge on trees. Some species don't survive winter, so they migrate over long distances from warmer Southern areas every summer to the Northern regions. Females lay eggs in rows or clusters usually in the tissue of leaves and stems. The eggs hatch in one to two weeks and nymphs develop for one to four weeks. Most species have two to five generations per year. The first frosts in the fall usually kill off the nymphs; some leafhoppers will over-winter as eggs.





Species can be somewhat specific to certain host plants. As a group they feed on most fruits and vegetables, especially apple, bean, cucumber, and related plants, eggplant, grape, and potato; also some flowers and weeds.




Both adults and nymphs feed by puncturing the undersides of leaves and stems and sucking out plant juices, leaving a mottled appearance. Their saliva is toxic causing some plants to react with severe leaf distortions, including warty, crinkled leaves, rolled edges, or stunted growth. Plants may have tipburn (also called "hopper burn" on potatoes) and yellowed, curled leaves with white spots on the undersides. As they feed, leafhoppers excrete sticky honeydew on the leaves below. Fruit may be spotted with drops of excrement and honeydew, which can be washed off. Many species spread viruses and other disease-causing organisms. For people, medically they are harmless, but adult leafhoppers are capable of biting, temporarily producing pain.




1. Keep plants healthy and vigorous so that they can recover quickly if leafhoppers attack.

2. Attract and conserve natural enemies like damsel bugs, minute pirate bugs, lady beetles, lacewings, parasitic wasps, and spiders.

3. Commercially available beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewing, and minute pirate bugs, are all voracious predators of both the egg and young larval stage.

4. Remove garden trash and other debris shortly after harvest to reduce over-wintering sites.

5. Floating Row Covers can be used as a physical barrier to keep leafhoppers from damaging plants.


1. Some damage is tolerable, but when infestations are severe, apply dormant oil sprays to kill adults over-wintering on fruit trees.

2. Wash nymphs from plants with a strong spray of water.

3. Nymphs can also be controlled with insecticidal soap. Thorough coverage of both upper and lower infested leaves is necessary for effective control. Coverage of the fruit is of secondary importance. If pest levels become intolerable, spot treat with botanical insecticides as a last resort.

Helpful Tip: To improve the effectiveness of insecticidal soap, mix 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of isopropyl alcohol to 1 quart (1 l) of the spray. It helps the soap penetrate the insects' outer shell.

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Use Edgings

Nothing finishes off a flower bed like low, long flowering edging plants.

Alyssum, lobelia, and dianthus are great for just this purpose.

For good continual flowering, also fertilize every few weeks with a balanced fertilizer like a 15-15-15.

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