Most recently reviewed by: Suhas Vyavhare (2018)
Common Name(s): Cotton Fleahopper
Cotton fleahopper nymph. Source: Xandra Morris[/caption]The adult fleahopper is about 1/8-inch long, pale green, and has sucking mouthparts. It is flat, with an elongated, oval outline and prominent antennae. Nymphs resemble adults but lack wings and have large, often reddish eyes. Nymphs are sometimes confused with immature minute pirate bugs, big-eyed bugs, aphids, and lygus bug. But differences in color, shape, and behavioral patterns can help distinguish these insects from cotton fleahoppers.
Origin and Distribution
Cotton fleahopper is a native insect found throughout most of the southern US and northern Mexico, although it has been collected as far north as Minnesota and New Jersey.
Habitat & Hosts
Cotton fleahoppers feed on horsemint, cutleaf evening primrose, showy sundrops, woolly tidestromia, spotted beebalm (horsemint), lemon beebalm (horsemint), silverleaf nightshade and many other wild hosts. They are only a pest of cotton.
The cotton fleahopper overwinters in the egg stage in wild host plants such as woolly croton and silverleaf nightshade. The eggs hatch in the spring and the young nymphs feed on sap of tender vegetation. Nymphs molt five times and in 14 to 15 days, mature to adults. Six to eight generations are completed per year.
In the spring and early summer, fleahopper populations increase on horsemint, cutleaf evening primrose, showy sundrops, woolly tidestromia, spotted beebalm (horsemint), lemon beebalm (horsemint), silverleaf nightshade and many other wild hosts. As these hosts mature, the cotton fleahopper adults fly in search of host plants with flower buds, including cotton, on which to deposit eggs.
The eggs are about 1/30 of an inch long and inserted under the bark of small stems and are thus very difficult to see without dissecting the stem. At 80°F, eggs hatch in about 11 days.
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.
Adult fleahoppers are pests of cotton where they feed on leaf and fruit buds. Both adults and nymphs suck sap from the tender portion of the plant, including small squares (flower buds). Pinhead-size and smaller squares are most susceptible to damage. Damaged squares die and turn brown, resulting in a “blasted” appearance. The damaged squares soon drop from the plant.
Cotton is primarily susceptible to cotton fleahopper damage during the first 3 weeks of squaring. Given sufficient time, cotton can compensate for lost squares with little impact on yield, particularly those lost during the first week of squaring in the more southern areas of the state. However, where the cotton is planted late, or the growing season is significantly shortened by cool temperatures, the crop may be less likely to compensate with lint yield and quality.
The action threshold for cotton fleahoppers varies depending on the region of Texas. When considering an insecticide application, be aware that as plants increase in size and fruit load, they can tolerate larger numbers of fleahoppers without yield reduction. When plants are blooming, fleahopper control is rarely justified.
Guidelines for field scouting, treatment thresholds, insecticides and other management information is detailed in the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension publication Cotton Fleahoppers ENTO-073 and the Extension publication “Managing Cotton Insects in Texas ENTO-075″ https://extensionentomology.tamu.edu/resources/management-guides/managing-cotton-insects-in-texas/early-season-pests/