Until I started gardening, I never gave much thought to the shape of insects’ noses. I don’t think I thought about them at all. But the more you learn, the more you find out there is even more to learn about. Does that make sense?
Anyway, sharp-nosed leafhoppers (Scaphytopius magdalensis, also known as Platymetopius magdalensis) are invasive pests found throughout the U.S. They feed on cranberry, huckleberry, and other members of the heath family (Ericaceae), as well as soybeans, potatoes, willows, and grasses. This feeding doesn’t cause much in the way of damage besides stippling, but these pests are also vectors for blueberry stunt disease, soybean bud proliferation, and western X-disease.
Sharp-nosed leafhopper identification
Sharp-nosed leafhoppers are small, brown, and quick. They are narrow and less than one-quarter of an inch long. Like other leafhoppers, they tend to hide until disturbed, then they leap to safety. Very often, leaf stippling and this sudden leaping are the only clues that leafhoppers have arrived. If you catch one on a yellow sticky sheet, you can see that they are brown with white markings on both body and wings. And they have pointy, anvil-shaped heads. Nymphs are off-white with dark, hourglass-shaped wingpads.
Sharp-nosed leafhopper lifecycle
Eggs are laid in leaf tissue, where they overwinter. A second generation is started in mid-summer. Wingless nymphs tend to emerge just as blueberry buds are beginning to open. Sharp-nosed leafhopper nymphs go through five instars before reaching adulthood.
Sharp-nosed leafhopper management
Sharp-nosed leafhopper feeding isn’t particularly damaging. The leaf stippling they cause can slow photosynthesis, but leaf stippling can also be caused by aphids, spider mites, thrips, and other pests, so it’s important to look closely and try to catch a specimen if you can. The real problem is the diseases these pests can spread as they feed. Yellow sticky sheets are the best way to monitor for sharp-nosed leafhoppers. If they become a problem, you may have to apply insecticidal soap.
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