Hip Hippity Hoppity Leafhoppers
There’s a spot of yellowy-green, brown or red on your plants and it’s jumping from place to place? Or every time you come to take a closer look it quickly scuttles around to the other side of the leaf?
It could be a leafhopper! They love to bite through leaves, stems and bits of tree trunk to suck up the delicious and nutritious plant sap. Leafhoppers particularly love Eucalyptus trees.
Little leafhoppers aren’t selfish either. While they’re drinking they excrete honeydew. Ants partner with them, collecting the honeydew and in return protecting the leafhoppers from predatory insects. Talk about teamwork!
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 if that’s where your next holiday takes you.
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 nibble them up 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.
Don’t shoo leafhoppers away from your garden. Leafhoppers make a great dinner for birds, lizards, and ladybird beetles, and will attract other animals to your backyard as well.