Insect identification > Homoptera > Leafhoppers and Treehoppers > Beet leafhoppers

Beet leafhoppers

The beet leafhopper (Eutettix tenellus Bak.) is a western species, also reported from Mexico and Argentina. It is about three-sixteenths inch long, varying from pale green to dark brown in color. It winters as the adult and in spring may feed on many kinds of wild plants but later passes to the sugar beet, often flying in swarms for many miles.

As it feeds on the beets, a curling of the leaves called "curly top" and a transparency of the veins are produced if the insect has previously fed on some diseased plant, though the nature of the disease is not under­stood. Its effect on the beet is to reduce its sugar content and stunt or kill the plant attacked, often causing a loss of millions of dollars a year to the crop. Breeding in the beet fields, there may be from one to four generations a year.

Many other leafhoppers are at times serious pests. The grape leafhopper is sometimes so abundant that grape leaves in vineyards are turned brown and much injured. The six-spotted leafhopper attacks some grains and grasses, and other species, generally of slight importance, at times assume prominence.

A group of tiny leafhoppers known as froghoppers or spittle insects is also included here. They are common on grasses and other herbaceous plants and also on some trees such as the pine. The nymphs produce a fluid and liberate air in this in such a way as to form a sort of froth or "spittle" in which they live. They are very abundant in the Northern states practically across the entire continent, and one species, the lined spittle bug (Philoenus lineatus L.), is often so common as to wet the shoes of a person who walks through the grass in June.

The nymphs suck the sap from the grass stems, withering and turning white the upper parts of the stems and the blossoms, much as do the grass thrips. Burning over old grass fields where these insects are most abundant, in early spring, will destroy many of these insects in their winter quarters close to the ground.