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Aster Leafhopper (Also Beet and Potato Leafhoppers)

Closer Look Of The Aster LeafhopperThere are numerous varieties of leafhoppers, but the kind that give gardeners the most headaches are the aster, potato and beet hoppers. These tiny, wedge-shaped, quarter inch long insects, whose wings fold over tent-like on their backs, feed on the underside of leaves and spread viral diseases such as curly top virus, aster yellows and tip burn (hopperburn on potatoes). They cause their damage by puncturing plant tissues with their stylets and sucking out the juices, transmitting their diseases in the process. Foliage often appears mottled with white or yellow spots, and my drop, thus weakening the plants. If you see black sooty mold, it may indicate leafhopper honeydew droppings. Normally green in color, the insects jump, or hop about, when disturbed. Aster leafhoppers are also known as six-spotted leafhoppers, due to the six small spots on their heads.

Adult

Adult Aster LeafhopperAster and beet leafhoppers sport black spots over a greenish yellow body, while potato hoppers have faint white spots. All hoppers feed on a variety of plants, including lettuce, celery, carrot, parsnip, parsley, dill, onion, shallot, pepper, tomato, cucumber, and sweet corn. If temperatures aren’t too cold, they can overwinter in your garden or fly-in from southern states, depending upon prevailing winds, sometimes traveling 200-300 miles. Usually, the first adults to arrive are females, who lay eggs on young plants. Around June, these eggs become adults and begin to cause the real damage to crops. Adult hoppers live for about a month, but there can be two to five generations in a growing season and can lay as many as 200 eggs in their lifetime. Adults acquire their pathogens by feeding on infected plants and weeds, but perhaps only about 3 to 5 percent actually carry any diseases.


Eggs

Aster Leafhopper EggsSome adult leafhoppers hibernate the winter in weeds and garden debris, laying eggs in early spring, normally in the stems or veins, just under the plants skin. Others lay their eggs in fall, which hatch the following spring. Many leafhoppers overwinter in more southern climates and fly north in early spring to lay their offspring. Eggs hatch in 10-14 days and are normally deposited on the underside of plant leaves.


Nymph

Aster Leafhopper NymphNymphs are normally a smaller, paler version of the adults, making them even more difficult to see, until they mature into adults over a period of 20-30 days. Because they cannot fly, nymphs, when disturbed, will scuttle away sideways in what has been described as a crabwalk, . In the course of several days or weeks, they shed their exoskeleton about five times before they become adults, a process know as incomplete metamorphosis. Put another way, they go through five instars before they achieve adulthood. The first fall frost will usually kill all nymphs.


Vegetables That Aster Leafhoppers Like To Eat

Beans Dill Parsnips Squashes
Beets Eggplant Peppers Sweet corn
Carrots Lettuce Potatoes Tomatoes
Celery Melons Rhubarb
Cucumbers Parsley Shallot

Control

To identify leafhoppers, wave a piece of cardboard covered with a sticky substance, such as Tangle Foot or honey, stirring the foliage with your hands. When disturbed, hoppers will ‘hop’ and get caught in the sticky cardboard. Use a magnifying glass to identify the type of leafhopper causing the trouble, and spray the infected leaves with insecticidal soap, flushing as many bugs as you can to the ground, repeating this procedure after three days.

Since leafhoppers like warmth and full sun, try growing your susceptible plants under floating row covers, which will slightly shade them and will not appear as attractive to the leafhoppers.

It is possible to control leafhoppers in the nymph stage by using neem or an insecticide containing pyrethrin. For a more organic, gentile approach, try using mix #23. Sabadilla dust, if applied to the undersides of WET leaves, will normally kill leafhoppers, as will rotenone. Either dust the leaves or make a 5 percent solution and spray it.

If all else fails, you can use carbaryl (Sevin), cyfluthrin (Baythroid), or esfenvalerate (Asana). These are commercial chemical toxins, so be sure to follow the instructions on the container and be mindful of all safety precautions.

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