Backyard Buddies
Leafhoppers

Photo: John Tann

Leafhoppers

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If you see a spot of yellowy-green, brown or red on your plants and it's jumping from place to place and when you take a closer look it quickly scuttles around to the other side of the leaf- it could be a leafhopper.

Leafhoppers bite through leaves, stems and bits of tree trunk to suck up the delicious and nutritious plant sap, particularly Eucalyptus trees.

Leafhoppers often work with ants. While they're drinking they excrete honeydew. The ants collect the honeydew and in return protect the leafhoppers from predatory insects.

Watch an amazing video of a gecko drinking honeydew from hoppers

Leafhoppers are one of the largest families of plant-feeding insects in the world. There are around 20,000 species known at the moment, but there could be as many as 100,000. There are new species of leafhopper discovered every day.

There are actually more leafhopper species worldwide than all species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians combined.

Leafhoppers can live anywhere that vascular plants occur. So you can see them in your backyard, in grassland, wetland, rainforest, the desert and or even in the arctic tundra.

Each leafhopper only lives for a few months but the best time to look for them is from October through to April, when you'۪ll find them on twigs, branches and young leaves. At between 2 and 30 mm long, and shaped like a tent, adult leafhoppers are a tiny sight worth seeing.

While drinking sap, leafhoppers can transmit germs and diseases to a plant. Leafhoppers are only around for a few months of the year. Other animals feed on them when numbers become big, so human intervention is usually not necessary to keep plants healthy.

Did you know?

 Leafhoppers have been around since the time of dinosaurs. The oldest fossil of a true leafhopper is 125 million years old. The leafhoppers you spot today are virtually identical to the leafhoppers of the Baltic and Dominican regions from 35-55 million years ago.

Tip

Don'۪t shoo leafhoppers away from your garden. Leafhoppers make a great meal for birds, lizards, and ladybird beetles, and will attract other animals to your backyard as well.

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