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Leafhoppers and Spittlebugs
Leafhoppers are one of the largest families of plant-feeding insects. There are more leafhopper species worldwide than all species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians combined. Each species attacks specific host plants. As a group they feed on leaves of a wide variety of plants including many types of grasses, flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, shrubs, deciduous trees, and weeds.
Several leafhopper species are important agricultural pests, primarily because they are vectors of plant pathogens.
There are many species of spittlebugs that feed on conifers and broad-leaved ornamentals. Most are unsightly but do little damage to the plants. Two species, the pine spittlebug and the Saratoga spittlebug, are considered serious pests in Maine. Heavy infestations cause flagging branches, dead terminal growth, and stunted and distorted stems and branches, and will kill trees in two to three years.
Leafhoppers and spittlebugs are related and also look like each other. Leafhoppers are usually not more than 1/4 inch in length and narrower. Spittlebugs are generally a bit larger and more plump. Leafhoppers have at least one row of small spines along the hind tibia, where spittlebugs only have a few spines in this location. A most notable difference is that spittlebug nymphs make a foam and hide and feed inside it.
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Identification and Control Information (each will open in a new window)
[Photos, left to right: Steve L. Brown, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org; Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org; University of Georgia Plant Pathology Archive, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org; John H. Ghent, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org; Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Archive, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Bugwood.org]
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