Sage and Ligurian leafhoppers

Sage and Ligurian leafhoppers can cause a coarse pale mottling on sage, rosemary, lavender and related plants in the spring and summer.

Sage leafhopper damage on mint

Sage leafhopper damage on mint

Quick facts

Common name: Sage and Ligurian leafhoppers
Scientific names: Eupteryx melissae and E. decemnotata
Plants affected: Many aromatic plants in the Lamiaceae family, including sage, mints, lavender, bergamot, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, and lemon balm.
Main symptoms: Coarse pale spotting on upper leaf surface. Leafhoppers may be seen on the underside of leaves
Most active: April to September

What are sage and Ligurian leafhoppers?

Leafhoppers are small sap-feeding insects that feed on the undersides of leaves. Sage and Ligurian leafhoppers are similar in appearance, they suck sap from aromatic plants in the Lamiaceae family, including sage, mints, lavender, bergamot, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, and lemon balm. Their feeding causes a course pale mottling of the foliage.

These leafhoppers are widespread in the UK. The adults are up to 3.5mm long, pale green and heavily dappled with brown and black markings. The adult insects are broadest at the head end and sit with their wings folded back over their bodies. When disturbed, they readily jump and can fly short distances. The nymphs are creamy white in colour and do not have fully formed wings. As leafhopper nymphs grow they shed their skins several times. The discarded white skins can often remain attached to the lower leaf surface and are sometimes referred to as ‘ghost insects’.

These leafhoppers overwinter as eggs on its host plants and are active from May until the autumn.

Symptoms

Sage and Ligurian leafhoppers cause a pale mottling on upper leaf surfaces of host plants. By late summer affected leaves may be heavily mottled, although this seems to have little effect on the plants’ growth.

Control

Damage caused by sage and Ligurian leafhoppers can generally be tolerated by host plants, and so control is not necessary. Affected herbs are safe to eat.

Non-pesticide control

  • See above - control not usually necessary

Pesticide control

  • Some control may be gained if plants are sprayed when leaf spotting is first seen
  • If herbs that are being used for culinary purposes require treatment, use products considered organic or products containing lambda-cyhalothrin or deltamethrin that are labelled for use on these plants and follow the label instructions especially regarding maximum number of applications and harvest interval
  • Organic sprays, such as natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Ecofective Bug Killer), fatty acids (e.g. Solabiol Bug Free, Doff Greenfly & Blackfly Killer) or plant oils (e.g. Vitax Organic Pest & Disease Control, Bug Clear for Fruit and Veg) can give some control. These pesticides have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep leafhoppers in check. Plant oil and fatty acid products are less likely to affect larger insects such as ladybird adults
  • More persistent insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Pest Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) is also available. IT cannot be used on edible herbs
  • Follow label instructions when using pesticides
  • Plants in flower should not be sprayed due to the danger to pollinating insects
  • Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener

Download

Pesticides for gardeners  (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining pesticides available to gardeners)


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