This pest is an outlaw, of sorts, carrying death and disease in its wake.
Glassy-winged sharpshooters may have a cool name (and they look pretty amazing), but they are a serious pest that carries several diseases to your garden and landscape plants. This pest first appeared in the Bay Area in 2001 and efforts are being made to control its spread. Let's see how we can help control this pest.
Glassy-winged sharpshooter description
Sharpshooters are a type of leafhopper. They have narrow bodies and strong legs. Glassy-winged sharpshooters tend to be 1/2 inch long and dark, shiny brown above, and yellow underneath. The wings are clear with reddish veins and spines can be seen on the hind legs, if you look closely.
Glassy-winged sharpshooter lifecycle
Clusters of white eggs are laid on the underside of leaves and then covered with a white, powdery coating, called a brochosome. This coating and the nearby leaf tissue turn brown after the eggs hatch and the nymphs use their piercing mouth parts to suck sugary sap from the xylem. These nymphs will molt several times before reaching adulthood. While sharpshooter feeding is not a serious threat to healthy host plants, these insects carry many diseases, and their excrement forms a coating on leaves that looks like whitewash and falls on cars below. Heavy feeding on new, small plants can cause wilting.
Sharpshooter host plants
These pests are opportunists. Scientists estimate that there are over 700 different types of plants used by sharpshooters as food. These plants include grapes, citrus trees, and stone fruits. This means most of the fruit and nut trees in your garden or landscape are susceptible to these pests. What’s worse, as these pests feed, the bacteria they carry is injected into the plants!
Diseases carried by glassy-winged sharpshooters
The glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca vitripennis [formerly H. coagulata]), like other sharpshooters, are sap-sucking insects. As they feed on plants infected with the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria, the bacteria begin reproducing within the insects mouthparts. When the sharpshooter feeds on successive plants, the bacteria and the diseases they cause, are also transferred. These pests can bring several, currently incurable, diseases to foodscape, including:
*These diseases have not yet been found in California, as of April 2018.
How to control glassy-winged sharpshooters
Insect predators, such as parasitic wasps, and naturally occurring pathogens are the most effective, long-term control measure, so avoid using broad-spectrum insecticides. In severe cases, insecticides may need to be used. Just be sure to use them sparingly and follow the directions exactly. Insecticidal soaps and oils have also proven effective.
If you see a glassy-winged sharpshooter, please contact your local Sheriff or County Extension Office right away!
[Yes, I’m kidding about the Sheriff. But I’m serious about the County Extension.]
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!