Common Name: Fleahopper
Scientific Name: Halticus bractatus(Say)
Description: Adult garden fleahoppers are tiny (less than 1/16 inch long) and black with long antennae. Males and the long-winged form of the female resemble tiny tarnished plant bugs. Females of the short-winged form are more globular in shape and have beetle-like forewings with no membranous portions. They generally occur on the underside of leaves and readily jump or hop when disturbed.
This insect superficially resembles flea beetles in size and jumping habits, but produces no holes in leaf tissue as do chewing beetles. They may also be confused with some aphids because of their small size. However, aphids do not jump. The suckfly, Cyrtopeltis notata (Distant) (Hemiptera: Miridae) is another small true bug that can similarly injure tomatoes in home gardens and commercial greenhouses. Adults are slender and parallel-sided, 1/8 inch long, green-black bugs with long slender legs (not modified for jumping) and antennae. Nymphs are greenish with red eyes and do not have fully developed wings. They develop through five molts and feed on the underside of leaves.
Life Cycle: Winter is spent in the egg stage (diapausing) in colder regions or as adults in warmer areas. Adults deposit eggs in leaves and stems from punctures made by mouth parts. Nymphs hatching from eggs are green and develop through five stages (instars) before becoming winged adults in 11 to 41 days depending on temperature. Up to five generations can occur per year.
Habitat, Food Source(s), Damage: Nymphs and adults feed on leaves and stems of beans, beets, cabbage, celery, corn, cowpeas, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, sweetpotato, tomatoes, many herbs and other plants including ornamentals such as chrysanthemums. Leaf feeding causes pale (chlorotic) spots that appear as stipples, which detract from plants grown for use of fresh leaves such as lettuce and herbs. Heavily injured leaves may die. Fleahoppers are most easily captured by gently cutting infested plant parts (leaves) and placing them in plastic bags.
Pest Status: Common in the garden causing stippling of leaves of a wide variety of plants; medically harmless.
Literature: Carter et al. 1982a; Little 1963; Metcalf et al. 1962; Slater and Baranowski 1978.