Common Name: Psyllid
Scientific Name: Paratrioza cockerelli (Sulc)
Description: Adults, also called “jumping plant lice,” resemble tiny cicadas. They are about 1/10 inch long, greenish to black, have a white fringe band around the first abdomen and clear wings held over the back when at rest. They jump and fly readily when disturbed.
Life Cycle: This insect overwinters in southern Texas and New Mexico. Yellow-orange, bean shaped eggs on short stalks are laid by mated females on undersurface of leaves. Nymphs hatch from eggs in 4 to 15 days and have scale-like flattened, oval, yellowish-green to orangeish bodies with red eyes and three pairs of short legs. Older nymphs are greenish and fringed with hairs. They develop through five stages (instars) in 2 to 3 weeks before becoming winged adults. Field populations are particularly abundant following cool, mild winters and occur during February and March in south Texas and then migrate north.
Habitat and Food Source(s): This species occurs mainly on field grown potato and field or greenhouse grown tomato crops, but also attacks eggplant, pepper and tomatillo. Wild host plants include wolfberry or matrimony vine (Lycium sp.), Chinese lantern, ground cherry and some other members of the nightshade or Solinaceae family of plants.
Pest Status, Damage: Can injure plants such as potato or tomato crops when they occur in high numbers; an outbreak occurred in the Winter Garden area around Uvalde in 1992; medically harmless.
Nymphs (not adults) sucking host plant juices produce toxic effects (phytotoxemia, possibly by injecting a virus) on plant growth that include retarded internode growth, upward cupping or rolling of leaves and thickened nodes – resulting in a condition called, “rosetting.” Leaf margins, leaves and other plant parts can become yellow (chlorotic) and reddish to purplish – symptoms called “psyllid yellows” and “purple-top.” Potato tubers and fruits produced by discolored (chlorotic) plants are tiny, malformed and unfit for commercial uses. Older leaves and heavily injured plants may die.
Management: See Managing Insect and Mite Pests in Vegetable Gardens.
Literature: Metcalf et al. 1962; Stewart 1993; Swan & Papp 1972; Westcott 1973.