Potato Leaf Hoppers: A Common Pest of Red Maples in Nurseries

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Adapted from original content by Danny Lauderdale. I found potato leaf hoppers in one of my granulate ambrosia beetle traps this morning. I believe they were attracted by the light green color of the trap (we normally use yellow sticky cards to detect potato leaf hopper arrival from the South). Potato leafhoppers feed on new

Yellow sticky card with potato leafhopper. Photo: Danny Lauderdale, NCSU Extension.

Yellow sticky card with potato leafhopper. Photo: Danny Lauderdale, NC State Extension.

leaves and buds of red maples. This causes leaves to become deformed and if buds are damaged they produce multiple leaders, a symptom called ‘witches broom’. Local nursery owners also reported seeing a few last week in maples. Host plant resistance can play an important role in reducing potato leafhopper damage. Cultivars ‘Brandywine’, ‘Somerset’, and ‘Sun Valley’ have some resistance to this damage. Most damage occurs from early season feeding on new buds and

leaves so red maple cultivars that break bud earliest in spring (before leafhoppers arrive) sustain the least injury. Pyrethroids (like bifenthrin or permethrin) applied every two weeks while trees are leafing out will reduce damage. If your maple trees are repeatedly damaged by this pest you might consider a systemic neonicotinoid drench in the future which can provide two years of protection and may prevent harming natural enemies which repeated pyrethroid sprays will knock down.