Beet Leaf Hopper
Physical Description: This 1/8 to 1/5 inch long leafhopper is pale green or yellow, is thin and wedge-shaped, and becomes darker toward the winter. The nymph is also pale green like the adult. The eggs are yellow and are laid in the stems of plants. Adults swarm from May thru June. In our area the adults arrive on the warm wind currents from the Verde Valley and then move on when our temperatures rise.
Region: The Beet Leafhopper is found in western North America & other areas.
Feeding characteristics: The beet leafhopper carries “Curly Top” disease. A single feeding from a beet leafhopper can infect a nightshade plant like tobacco, tomato, chili pepper, eggplant, or other veggies, rendering it useless for agriculture.
Disease: A beet leafhopper gets the disease from other infected crop plants or from weeds like wild mustards and Russian thistle. It only takes a matter of minutes for the beet leafhopper to get the virus and then transmit it to your beautiful tomato plant. Plants begin to show signs within a week or two. Tomatoes are not the favorite food for the beet leafhopper but as they sample it they transmit the virus.
The symptoms of Curly Top include: a noticeable a change in color from healthy dark green to a pale yellow green, the leaves roll, and show a distinct purple color to leaf veins. The plant may be infected regardless of its size or the fruit on it. Once the tomato plant has been infected they do not recover and it is best to remove the plant. Stunted growth, poor fruit production, and the possibility of spreading the disease further support the garden policy of removing the plant.
Pull affected plants as soon as the symptoms are noticed and always keep your garden area, including aisles and fence lines, clear of weeds.
Another tomato plant may be planted in the same place as the soil is not affected by the disease. Although the disease may affect other vegetable plants we have not seen it in our gardens.
Prevention: Bug barrier protection – covering your plants with very fine material such as Tulle, window screen, or other dense materials may prevent the leaf hopper from landing on your plants. Cover plants at planting time or before the weather warms.
or Provide shade for the tomato plants. Shade materials include: floating row covers, screening, or shade cloth. Leafhoppers do not like shaded areas. Shade should be close to the plant. Observe the early morning and late afternoon sunlight on your tomatoes to determine the best way to shade your plants.
Tomatoes do not require bee pollination. A simple pat, shake or jiggle as you walk by will adequately pollinate your tomatoes while they are under the shade cover.
Companion planting of marigolds may help repel the leafhopper and petunias and geraniums may act as trap crops by drawing them away from your veggies. Inter-planting of various crops may also deter the leafhopper or other bugs from enjoying the veggies in your garden.
Control: Spraying has not proven effective against the beet leaf hopper because in our area they migrate from miles away and do not remain in our gardens. By the time a diseased plant is identified the insect is long gone or moved to other crops or weeds that they prefer. At one eighth inch long this insect it is very difficult to see on plants and the leaf hopper will hop away quickly if disturbed. Infection of plants by the leafhopper is very random.