Having over 12,000 different species, hoppers are called leafhoppers, torpedo bugs, treehoppers, and lantern flies. Because of this, they are all different colors and patterns and can be found in most parts of the world, even north of the Arctic Circle. Luckily, these pests are relatively easy to get rid of without the use of harsh chemicals.
Adults are about ¼ inch long and can be green, white, bluish-black, brown, or spotted. Their wings are reminiscent of a leaf while the head is tiny and pointed. The young nymphs are wide, flat, and do not have wings. The adults have been known to jump up to two feet when disturbed.
How to tell if you Have Hoppers Around
If plant hoppers are present, there will be a cottony white mass and deposits of sticky or waxy honeydew which can also harbor mold. These are not harmful to the plants but they do make plants appear unkempt as the leaves become white and specked in spots because the hoppers feed on sap from the leaves, and the damage is actually similar to that of spider mites, but the hoppers can be found on the underside of the plant leaves.
Popular host plants to hoppers are maple, apple, cottonwood, dogwood, poplar, willow, grapes, roses, and oak as well as some ornamental plants. If there are leaf hoppers causing any damage to a lawn, it is typically difficult to spot; therefore, homeowners rarely treat for hoppers on their lawn.
How to Control Hoppers
Yellow sticky traps scattered throughout the garden or planting area will give the gardener an idea of how heavy the population of hoppers is. In addition to this, the traps will also reduce their numbers. The strips can be mounted to plant stakes or hang from the foliage, placing one every 6 to 10 feet. The traps should be checked weekly, and if the number is declining, the strips should be removed as to not trap any of the beneficial insects.
An insecticidal soap can be made with 5 tablespoons of degreasing dish liquid and one gallon of warm water. This solution should be placed in a plastic spray bottle. It kills hoppers on contact and should be sprayed generously on the affected plant. The best time to do this would be in the early morning, choosing a day when the temperature will not reach or exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. After spraying, leave for 2 hours and then rinse the solution off of the plants. This prevents as an adverse reaction for the plants. This treatment should be repeated every 4 to 7 days until there are no more plant hoppers.
Botanical insecticides are also an option for controlling hoppers. They work quickly while breaking down and targeting plant eaters, and are not harmful to beneficial insects, humans, or other mammals. One thing to remember though is that they do need to be reapplied frequently to remain effective. These treatments contain capsaicin (the ingredient that makes chili peppers hot) and work by repelling (not killing) leaf hoppers. Insecticides that contain an ingredient that is extracted from daisies, pyrethrum, can paralyze leaf hoppers, but it does not kill them.
Tips for Treating
Hoppers can be blasted off of plants with a strong stream from the garden hose, but other treatments will also be necessary to control the population. Any plants that show signs of damage from leafhoppers should be thrown away, as they could spread bacteria to plants that have not yet been affected.
Do not over fertilize plants; this can encourage the activity of leaf hoppers. Most of the time, the insecticidal soaps are only able to eradicate the young leafhoppers, and the soaps should be sprayed at all parts of the leaves, not just the underside of the leaves, as this is the most effective.
The insecticidal soaps and oils are harmless to humans and other mammals, and generally, they are effective in eradicating other pests in addition to leaf hoppers. These products are available widely at any garden shop and are sold under various names and brands. To be effective, they must be reapplied routinely and thoroughly.
Leafhoppers do not have many natural enemies; therefore, it is mainly up to the gardener and their method of control to eradicate the hoppers.