Tom Turpin
Professor of
Purdue University







Leafhoppers by the Zillions

Leafhoppers seem to be everywhere during the summer.  These small insects, measuring only millimeters in length, can be found on almost all types of plants.

They feed by taking sap from leaves.  Their feeding pattern plus their habit of jumping when disturbed has given them the name “leafhoppers.”

Many leafhoppers have a single generation a year and spend the winter in the adult or egg stage.  Some are seasonal invaders, coming into the Midwestern states in the spring as passengers on a spring weather system.

Leafhoppers are important pests of plants.  Damage is caused in several ways, including stress due to removing sap.  Some species injure plants by laying eggs in twigs.  Other species are vectors of important plant diseases, including potato yellow dwarf and corn stunt.

One of the most common pests, of this group of insects, is the potato leafhopper.  Though it is a pest of potatoes, it also feeds on alfalfa and soybeans.   When the potato leafhopper attacks alfalfa, its saliva produces a toxic affect, causing the leaves to turn yellow in a v-shaped pattern.

You don't have to grow potatoes or alfalfa to consider the potato leafhopper a pest.  This insect invades our homes much too frequently.  The potato leafhopper really doesn't want to be a house guest.  It just happens to be an insect that cannot stay away from lighted windows.

The potato leafhopper is so small that it can go through window screens in search of the neatest light fixture.  By the next morning, leafhopper carcasses are strewn like fallen infantrymen across counter tops, in light fixtures and on window sills.

Home owners who have enlisted bug zappers in their personal battle-of-the-bugs will find that their prized device has claimed leafhoppers by the buckets full.  Still, many leafhoppers manage to find their way into the house.  In the battle with insects, we humans have come to realize that numbers can sometimes overcome the most modern devices.


Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Elaine Lambert