Katja Schulz, Wikimedia Commons
Adult Description: The adult Sage leafhopper Eupteryx melissae is about 3mm in length, and the body is white with a green tint. The distinguishing feature of this leafhopper are the brown and black spots on the dorsal side of the body and wings, similar to that of a leopard. Adult Sage leafhoppers are very active and jump when disturbed on a plant leaf.
Larva Description: Eupteryx melissae eggs are laid in leaf veins and petioles making it difficult to find even with the aid of a microscope. The larvae emerge a pale yellow color and develop dark bands as they get older. The nymphs go through 5 stages of development before adulthood. Their skin sheds between each stage and can often be mistaken for an adult sage leafhopper. Nymphs are much less active than adults and are usually found under leaves next to the vein.
Host Plant: Eupteryx melissae are found on many herb species and potted plants such as: lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, lemon balm, and Phlomis species.
Eupteryx melissae presents a threat to herb plants grown for market because of the damage done to the plant leaves rendering them unfit. The sage leafhopper is able to do enough damage to a field of herbs that the entire crop can be lost resulting in a serious financial loss. The sage leafhopper feeds on the leaves of the host plant resulting in holes as well as white spots which expand and form bleached spots on the leaves.
Eupteryx melissae is easily undetected because it lays eggs on the bottom of leaves and egg size prevents them from being detected with the naked eye. Adult Sage leafhoppers are also very fit and active, allowing them to escape traps and possible predators with ease.
It is believed that E. melissae was transferred to the United States on herb or ornamental plant shipments.
U.S. Habitat: Eupteryx melissae are typically found on the leaves of plants from which it can feed such as the host herbs listed above. The sage leafhopper can also be found feeding on weeds such as horehound (invasive plant) or dead-nettle.
U.S. Present: The sage leafhopper can be found anywhere in the United States where herbs are grown in local gardens or large greenhouses.
The sage leafhopper is similar in shape to other leafhoppers, but can be distinguished by the brown and black dorsal spots. Evidence of the sage leafhopper can be determined by white spots left on the leaves of former host plants.
There are two possible predators of the sage leahopper in the nymph stages serving as a natural biological control. The parasitic wasp Anagrus atomus which is less than 1mm in length lays eggs inside leafhopper eggs. This parasitic wasp is available for sale and was originally developed for control of the glass leafhopper. Other possible predators are insect-pathogenic nematodes such as Steinernema feltiae. The nematodes are applied to plants as a spray and infect the nymph stage of the sage leafhopper by inserting through the mouth or anus and killing the nymph leafhopper via bacterial infection. This nematode has had little testing on herbs for efficacy. Additionally, the green lace-wing, Chrysoperla carnea has been found effective in removing aphid populations from herbs as well as leafhoppers. Therefore, it could be a potential bio control mechanism for the management of sage leafhopper populations.
Lole, M. 2009. Field-grown herbs: Evaluation of a mechanical method for the cultural control of leafhoppers. Final report for HDC project FV 330
Bennison, J. & Green, K. 2007. Protected herbs: Best Practice Guidelines for integrated pest and disease management. Final report for Defra project HH3118TPC and HDC project PC 210. (available from the HDC).
Hamilton, K. G. A. 1983. Introduced and native leafhoppers common to the old and new worlds (Rhynchota: Homoptera: Cicadellidae). The Canadian Entomologist 115: 473-511.
Nickel, H., and W. E. Holzinger. 2006. Rapid range expansion of Ligurian leafhopper, Eupteryx decemnotata Rey, 1891 (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae), a potential pest of garden and greenhouse herbs, in Europe. Russian Entomological Journal 15: 295-301.