Most recently reviewed by: Blayne Reed & Ballinger (Vacant) (2021)
Common Name(s): Fleahopper, Garden fleahopper
The garden fleahopper is a small insect roughly 1/16 of an inch in size and is black with yellow spots. The females have two forms: a long wing and a short wing. Males and long-winged females resemble tiny, tarnished plant bugs, and the wings have membranous tips that extend past the end of the abdomen. The forewings of short-winged female lack the membranous portion and resemble the forewings of beetles. Garden fleahoppers can be confused with flea beetles because of their size and jumping habits when disturbed; and aphids because of their small size, but aphids do not hop when disturbed.
Garden fleahoppers are commonly found on the underside of leaves or plant terminals and tend to hop, jump, or fly when disturbed. This insect feeds on the plant’s leaf tissue and young fruiting sites and will give the leaf chlorotic spots due to cells dying, resembling the damage caused by spider mites and can cause malformation or fruit shed of flowing fruit.
Origin and Distribution
The garden fleahopper is a native insect and is widely distributed in the eastern United State of America and Canada. It is also distributed as far west as the Rocky Mountains and southward into the Caribbean as well as Central and South America.
Habitat & Hosts
The garden fleahopper has a wide host range and can be found infesting field crops, ornamentals, and vegetable crops. Commonly infested field crops include alfalfa, clover, sweet clover, and has been observed infesting cotton on the Texas High Plains recently. Ornamental plants infested include chrysanthemum, daisy, marigold, and salvia. Several vegetable plants can be infested including bean, cabbage, cowpea, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, pea, pepper, potato, squash, sweet potato, and tomato. Garden fleahoppers can also be found feeding on several weedy plants including bindweed, pigweed, mallow, ragweed, and many others.
The garden fleahopper has an incomplete life cycle (hemimetabolous) and passes through an egg and 5 nymphal instars before becoming an adult. Their life cycle can be completed in roughly 30 days depending on environmental temperatures. Under cold temperatures this insect overwinters (diapause) in the egg stage, and in warmer climates it overwinters as the adult stage.
Eggs are inserted into the leaves and stems of plants at puncture wounds and dead plants are white to yellow in color. Once nymphs hatch from the egg, they are a pale green and become darker shades of green with each instar. The nymph passes through a total of five instars before becoming adults in 11 to 41 days based on the temperature.
Nymphs and adults feed on both leaf and stem tissue by piercing cells and feed on the cell’s contents. This feeding damage causes the cells to die and gives the leaves a stippling appearance with chlorotic spots, similar to the damage caused by spider mites and can cause early fruit shed in squaring cotton or malformation of the flower. Leaves heavily damaged by the garden fleahopper will die prematurely. This damage can also hinder the sale of plants grown for fresh leaves like lettuce and herbs, or the reduce ornamental sales because they are no longer aesthetically pleasing to the customer.
ManagementIf you live in the State of Texas, contact your local county agent or entomologist for management information. If you live outside of Texas, contact your local extension for management options.
The garden fleahopper can be suppressed easily with labeled insecticides, and therefore tend to be a pest of gardens rather than commercial production sites, but economic populations in both do occur. In gardens these fleahoppers can be managed with home/garden insecticides labeled for aphid management. The eggs are protected from insecticide application because they are inside the plant tissue, and a second insecticide application may be needed once the eggs hatch to reduce damage. Physically removing weedy hosts close to and within or nearby to production sites and gardens can keep garden fleahopper numbers from reaching damaging levels. Natural enemies of the garden fleahopper do exist and can be used to manage their population. These natural enemies include parasitic wasps and a predatory mite among other predacious insects and spiders mobile enough to catch the fleahopper. For management recommendation please contact your local County Extension Office.
Managing Cotton Insects in Texas. https://extensionentomology.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ENTO075.pdf
Capinera, John L. 2020. Featured Creatures: Garden Fleahopper. University of Florida Publication: EENY-78. entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/veg/leaf/fleahopper.htm. Accessed Nov. 30, 2020
Bessin, Ric. 2019. Garden Fleahopper. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Publication:Entfact-307. entomology.ca.uky.du/ef307. Accessed Nov. 30, 2020
Vyavhare, Suhas S., Kerns, David, Allen, Charles, Bowling, Robert, Brewer, M., and Parajulee, M. 2019. Managing Cotton Insects in Texas. Texas A&M AgriLife Publication: ENTO-075. https://extensionentomology.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ENTO075.pdf. Accessed Nov. 30, 2020