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.
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?
The leafhoppers are a family (Cicadellidae) of sap sucking true bugs, there are more than 180 species found in Britain. They can jump or fly short distances and most do not feed on or cause noticeable damage to garden plants. Find out more about British species from British bugs.
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.
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.
Check susceptible plants frequently from spring onwards so action can be taken before a damaging population has developed. When choosing management options you can minimise harm to non-target animals by starting with the methods in the non-pesticide control section and avoiding pesticides. Within pesticides the shorter persistence products (that are usually certified for organic growing) are likely to be less damaging to non-target wildlife than those with longer persistence and/or systemic action. Pesticide treatments are likely to kill natural enemies and are only likely to be successful if the entire plant can be reached.
- Often leafhoppers do not affect the growth or vigour of plants and so can be tolerated and treated as part of the biodiversity gardens support
- Encourage predators and other natural enemies of leafhoppers, in the garden, such as birds, ladybirds, wasps and ground beetles.
Pesticide controlThe RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.
- Organic sprays, such as natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra 2, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer) or plant oils (e.g. Vitax Plant Guard Pest & Disease Control, Bug Clear Fruit & Veg, Vitax Rose Guard) can give good control of leafhoppers/lacebugs. These pesticides have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep leafhopper/lacebug numbers in check. Plant oil and fatty acid products are less likely to affect larger insects
- Plant invigorators combine nutrients to stimulate plant growth with surfactants or fatty acids that have a physical mode of action against leafhoppers (e.g. Ecofective Bug Control, Growing Success Bug Stop, Rose Clear 3 in 1 Action SB Plant Invigorator and Westland Resolva Natural Power Bug & Mildew). These products contain some synthetic ingredients and so are not considered organic
- More persistent contact-action insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer, Provanto Sprayday Greenfly Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
- A systemic containing the active ingredient Flupyradifurone (Provanto Smart Bug Killer) is available for use on ornamentals and selected edibles
Plants in flower should not be sprayed due to the danger to bees and other pollinating insects.
Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by RHS Gardening Advice. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.
- Pesticides for gardeners (link downloads pdf document outlining pesticides available to gardeners)
British bugs information on sage leafhopper
British bugs information on ligurian leafhopper
RHS and The Wildlife Trust database; froghoppers and leafhoppers
RHS statement on pesticides in horticulture
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