They Hop and They Suck!

Dec 26, 2017

They Hop and They Suck!

Dec 26, 2017

You've seen them. You've seen them hop.

They're aptly named.

Leafhoppers are tiny insects (family Cicadellidae) that suck nutrients from plants.

But have you ever looked at them really closely?

We spotted scores of mottled leafhoppers last week on our  Salvia mellifera (black sage) and Verbena in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif. We stirred the leaves and these near-microscopic insects hopped off.

They. Hopped. Over. To. Other. Leaves.

"Leafhoppers feed on many different fruit, vegetable, flower, and woody ornamental hosts," according to the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) website. "Most species of leafhoppers feed on only one or several closely related plant species. Adults mostly are slender, wedge-shaped, and less than or about equal to 1/4-inch long. Leafhoppers generally are varying shades of green, yellow, or brown, and often mottled. Some species are brightly colored, while others blend with their host plant. Leafhoppers are active insects; they crawl rapidly sideways or readily jump when disturbed. Adults and nymphs and their pale cast skins are usually found on the underside of leaves."

Oh, to be a leafhopper and have those modified legs for jumping. They're not faster than a speeding bullet but they're faster than aphids, and they can "run sideways and jump," UC IPM says. "Some common leafhopper species in gardens and landscapes are the rose leafhopper, grape leafhopper, variegated leafhopper, potato leafhopper, and the aster leafhopper."

This particular leafhopper--note the leopard pattern!--on our Verbena is a Typhlocybinae (subfamily of Cicadellidae) leafhopper, Eupteryx decemnotata, according to Robert Lord Zimlich of BugGuide.Net.

According to BugGuide.Net, Eupteryx decemnotata is native to the Mediterranean (now rapidly spreading in Europe) and 2 to 3 millimeters in size.  They are established in Napa and Riverside counties, BugGuide.Net says, and can be found on various herbs and ornamentals in Lamiaceae (rosemary, sage, marjoram, catnip, mint, oregano). The earliest known California record: 2008.

What to do when you see a leafhopper on Salvia and Verbena? Grab a camera with a macro lens. Don't get too close, though, as they can "run sideways and jump," UC IPM says.

Yes, they can, and yes, they do.