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Species Spotlight: Leafhoppers

written by: Rose Kivi•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 7/6/2010

These little bugs are everywhere. They can be found in your backyard, at the local farm, in the desert, in the tropics, in the mountains or in the forest.

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    About Leafhoppers

    Leafhoppers are tiny bugs with mouth parts that enable them to pierce plant leaves and eat the sap of vascular plants. They are given the name leafhopper because the bugs hop from leaf to leaf. The bugs range from 1/16" to 1.2" in length. There are more than 20,000 species of leafhoppers throughout the world. New species are found on a regular basis. It is possible that more than 100,000 species of leafhoppers exist but have yet to be discovered.

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    Photos

    Glass Winged Sharpshooter (Leafhopper)Black Faced Leafhopper
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    Habitat & Diet

    Leafhoppers can be found worldwide in any area that has vascular plants. In some areas leafhoppers are considered endangered or threatened. Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are US areas where the bugs are threatened or endangered. It is hard to determine fully the status of the bugs throughout the world, because there has not been a lot of research to evaluate the numbers in the wild. Normally leafhoppers are found in large numbers. A lack of leafhoppers in an area is an indicator that the environment is suffering. Habitat destruction that destroys plant species is a major contributing threat to the survival of leafhoppers. Some species of leafhoppers only feed on one particular species of plant. If that plant is removed from the habitat, the bugs die off.

    Leafhoppers can injure plants. When the bugs pierce the plants in order to eat the sap, they can cause damage to the structure of the plant. Sometimes the bugs spread viruses and diseases from one plant to another. There are several species of leafhoppers that are considered agricultural pests because they feed on and harm agricultural plants. Examples of leafhopper species that threaten the viability of agricultural crops are the beet leafhopper, potato leafhopper, two-spotted leaf hopper and the white apple leafhopper.

    How to Deal with a Leafhopper Infestation

    Farmers and home gardeners often find it difficult to get control of a leafhopper infestation. The bugs quickly develop a resistance to pesticides. Applying a solution of a biodegradable soapy water solution to every leaf of the plants can encourage the leafhoppers to leave. Special attention should be given to the underside of the leaves, where the bugs spend the majority of their time. The soapy solution has to be applied thoroughly and daily until the bug population is under control. Manually removing the bugs by gently wiping the leaves can also help to remove the bugs. it is easier to control a leafhopper infestation before it gets too bad.