Common Name: Sharpshooter
Scientific Name: Varies
Description: These species comprise a subgroup of the leafhoppers, the Cicindelinae. They are similar to leafhoppers and have forward pointing heads, but are generally larger (about 3/8 inches) and outer margins (front edges) of forewings at rest are more parallel-sided than wedge-shaped. Part of their hind legs (tibia) bear two rows of spines. The blue-green sharpshooter, Graphocephala atropunctata (Signoret), has green to bright blue wings, head and thorax, and yellow legs and abdomen as seen from underneath. The dark form of Homalodisca triquetra (Fabricius) has swollen white spots on the forewings.
There are several families in the order, Homoptera (Superfamily Fulgoroidea) that are called “planthoppers.” They differ from leafhoppers (and sharpshooters) by having only a few large spines on the hind leg (tibia), and have antennae arising from below the compound eyes. Although rarely very numerous or damaging to host plants, immature stages (nymphs) are often noticeable in the spring.
Immature Flatidae, such as those of Metcalfa pruinosa (Say) and Ormenoides spp., feed together (gregariously) on ornamental vines, shrubs and trees, producing masses of cottony-white waxy filaments on their bodies and terminal growth of plants. Moth-like adults are about 5/16 inch long, wedge-shaped and vary in color from whitish to pale green, to bluish-gray or brown.
Life Cycle: Gradual metamorphosis. Adults overwinter. Eggs are inserted into host plant tissue (a slit cut into the petiole). Nymphs are whitish yellow develop through several stages (instars). Depending on species, several generations can occur per year.
Habitat and Food Source(s): The blue-green sharpshooter has sucking mouth parts and a wide host range including many vines, shrubs and trees. Homalodisca triquetra (Fabricius) is common on cotton, okra, Prunus sp., Celtis sp., some ornamental plants, weeds and trees, although they seldom produce serious damage. Sharpshooters are interesting to watch because they quickly move to the back side of stems or other plant parts when detected.
Pest Status, Damage: Often noticeable on garden plants like okra, resting along stalks and “hiding” from viewers by quickly walking sideways around to the other side; produce minimal plant damage to most crops, although they are capable of transmitting plant diseases such as Pierce’s disease of commercial grape varieties, which prohibits the establishment of vineyards along coastal areas of Texas. They are medically harmless.
Literature: Borror et al. 1989; Johnson & Lyon 1988; Little 1963.