"Tiny, hopping specks of fuzz" is a good description of the planthoppers that are currently causing concern for Iowa gardeners. Recent calls and observations have reported planthoppers on the flower stalks of hosta, on euonymus groundcover and on several other flowers, vegetable plants and shrubs.
Planthopper nymphs are light green to yellowish brown and jump quickly when disturbed. Their distinctive feature, however, is the small tuft of white, cottony fuzz under which they can be concealed. Strands of this fuzz often accumulate along stems and branches, but most of it is carried right on the nymphs.
Planthoppers are more conspicuous than injurious. Although they are sap feeders, little if any damage occurs to otherwise healthy plants. Control measures are seldom necessary. Most gardeners can safely ignore this amusing curiosity after sufficient close observation and enjoyment. On hostas and some other infested plants cutting off infested flower stalks or other plant parts may be desirable. Spraying with insecticidal soap spray is a last resort that few will be able to justify. Thorough coverage with the soap will be required.
There is one generation of planthoppers each summer. The adults will appear by August and the nymphs will be gone, again. In spite of this insect's rating as "moderately common" in the eastern U.S. this is the first time in 14 years that enough planthoppers have been present to arouse discussion or concern. The July 27, 1984 Insects, Weeds and Plant Disease Newsletter reported a "steady trickle of reports and questions" similar to our experience this year.
This article originally appeared in the July 12, 1996 issue, p. 115.