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Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant Pests - Beet Leafhopper

Circulifer tenellus

Figure 9.7Adult beet leafhopper.


Adult: Wedge-shaped with a pale green, gray, or tan colored body and about 0.13 inches (3 mm) long.

Egg: Tiny, white.

Nymph: Similar in appearance to the adult but smaller and wings are not fully developed.


Beet leafhopper overwinters as mated females on weed hosts and in uncultivated areas in the southern U.S. They migrate or are blown north in early summer. Adults move into cultivated fields, when weeds begin to dry up, where they feed and reproduce on suitable host plants. Development from egg hatch to adult can take about 2-3 months. Multiple generations occur each year.


Adults and nymphs use their piercing sucking mouthparts to remove plant tissue from leaves and stems of host plants. When leaf hopper infestations are severe, feeding can result in shriveled and burned leaves which is often referred to as ‘hopper burn’. The most severe damage to tomato and pepper crops; however, occurs when the beet leafhopper transmits curly top virus. The leafhopper picks up the virus while feeding on infected weeds in the spring. As infected leafhoppers move into cultivated fields and gardens they spread the virus to all plants they feed on. Leafhoppers can transmit the virus to an uninfected host even if they only feed for a brief period (minutes). A virus-infected leafhopper will transmit the virus for the duration of its life, often resulting in long distance spread of the virus, but does not pass the virus on to its progeny in utero.


Management decisions should be focused on preventing leafhoppers from feeding and spreading the curly top virus.


  • Destroy and remove plant debris. Weeds or volunteer plants from previous crops can act as overwintering hosts for leafhoppers and the virus. Keep field borders and interiors clear of weeds; this will reduce food sources for incoming infected leafhoppers in the spring and summer.
  • Plant higher than normal density. This will help to lower the probability that every plant in the field will be infected.
  • Use floating row covers or reemay fabric. Reemay is a white mesh, breathable fabric to cover plants and reduce feeding by beet leafhopper and other insects.


Few natural enemies of the beet leafhopper have been identified. Research has shown a fly parasitoid (Pipunculidae) attacks beet leafhoppers, but the potential for population reduction is unknown.


The beet leafhopper’s wide host range, ability to migrate long distances, and rapid virus transmission when feeding make management with insecticides difficult. Insecticides may prevent some within-field spread, but most applications should be directed towards other hosts, such as weeds, in order to prevent leafhopper spread into the desired crop. However, this method may be costly and have less than ideal results, making cultural control the primary approach to management.

Beet Curly Top Virus Information