Distribution. Garden fleahopper is a native insect occurring widely in the eastern United States and Canada. It is known to occur as far west as the Rocky Mountain region, but it is relatively uncommon in the Great Plains. Its distribution extends southward through Central and South America to Argentina.
Host Plants. This fleahopper has a known host range that exceeds 40 different plants, but leguminous crops are most frequently damaged. Vegetable crops that host garden fleahopper include bean, beet, cabbage, celery, cowpea, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, pea, pepper, potato, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, and tomato. Field crops injured include alfalfa, clover, and sweet clover. Some of the common weeds that support garden fleahopper are beggartick, Bidens sp.; bindweed, Convolvulus spp.; burdock, Arctium minus; mallow, Malva spp.; pigweed, Amaranthus spp.; plantain, Plantago spp.; ragweed, Ambrosia spp.; smart-
weed, Polygonum spp.; prickly lettuce, Lactuca serriola; thistle, Carduus spp.; and wood sorrel, Oxalis stricta.
Mirids often are facultative predators, occasionally feeding on small insects or eggs. However, garden fleahopper has only infrequently been observed in this role (Day and Saunders, 1990). (See color figure 16.)
Natural Enemies. Natural control has been poorly studied, but parasitic wasps can inflict high rates of mortality. In the United States, 50% mortality caused by Leiophron uniformis (Gahan) (Hymenoptera: Braco-nidae) has been observed, and this parasitoid was believed to be regulating bug densities in New Jersey. Leiophron uniformis attacks principally the nymphal stages. In Canada, Peristenus clematidis Loan (Hyme-noptera: Braconidae) is known to parasitize garden fleahopper. An unidentified nematode and predatory mite also have been detected in the United States (Beyer, 1921; Day and Saunders, 1990). Beyer also reported several egg parasitoids, including Anaphes perdubius Girault and Anagrus sp. (both Hymenoptera: Mymaridae), and Oligosita americana Girault and Para-centrobia subflava Howard (both Hymenoptera: Tricho-grammatidae), but gave no data on their effectiveness.
Life Cycle and Description. There appear to be five generations annually in Virginia, though there is considerable overlap among the generations, and all stages can be found through the warmer months. A life cycle can be completed in about 30 days. Overwintering occurs in the egg stage, with hatch of overwintering eggs occurring in April. In Florida, flea-hoppers are present earlier in spring, and it has not been determined whether eggs hatch earlier or whether adults are the predominant overwintering form. However, adults have been captured over all months of the year except December, so overwintering of eggs is not essential under Florida's warm winter conditions. Temperatures above 32°C are reported to be unsuitable for fleahopper survival.
Egg. The eggs are normally inserted into the stems of vegetation. They are white to yellow, and measure about 0.7 mm long and 0.2 mm wide. The egg is curved in shape, with one side convex and the opposite side concave. The female deposits the eggs in feeding punctures. The end inserted into the plant tissue is rounded, whereas the end that is flush with the plant surface is truncate and level with the surface of the plant tissue. The female commences egg production about four days after mating, and deposits most of them during the evening hours. She produces 80-100 eggs during her life span, which averages about 30-50 days. Duration of the egg stage is about 14 days (range about 10-30 days).
The biology of garden fleahopper was given by Beyer (1921) and Cagle and Jackson (1947). Keys to plant bug genera can be found in Slater and Bara-nowski (1978) and keys to the species of Halticus in Henry (1983).
Garden fleahopper nymph.
Garden fleahopper female, short-winged form.
Nymphs and adults frequent the stems and both the lower and upper surfaces of plant leaves, sucking the sap from individual cells and and causing their death. The result is a whitish or yellowish speckling on the foliage. Extensive feeding may cause stunting of plant growth and death of seedlings. Deposition of fecal material on the plant by both nymphs and adults also detracts from the appearance and marketability of vegetables.
This insect is rarely a pest of commercial vegetable crops because it is easily controlled with insecticides. However, it is commonly an early season nuisance in home gardens, especially those grown near wooded or in shaded areas of gardens.
Suppression, when necessary, is easily accomplished with insecticides. Because fleahoppers commonly frequent weeds, where they may attain great abundance, such host plants should be monitored and sprayed or destroyed, if necessary. Also, garden fleahoppers sometimes build to high number in legume crops such as alfalfa and clover, so nearby vegetables may be at risk when the legume forage crops are harvested.
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