Another Annoying Pest: The Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter

Another Annoying Pest: The Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter

Throughout the history of our blogs, we’ve tackled a number of pests that require heavy regulations. But until now, we failed to recognize one that deserves just as much attention as the Spotted Lanternfly or Japanese Beetle. As we’re sure you can guess from the title we’re talking about the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter (Homalodisca vitripennis). 

This brown leafhopper has made quite the name for itself throughout our industry. In just the State of California, the pest has contributed significantly to the spread of Pierce’s Disease. The disease affects grapevines, costing California roughly $100M dollars per year [6].

But, California isn’t the only state that’s affected by this pest. Throughout the country States persistently battle this insect in hopes of avoiding another year of steep costs and damages to their livelihoods. 

The Shot of the Sharpshooter

So how does this pest contribute to the above disease and so many other damaging diseases? 

If you’ve missed our other blogs about pests, then allow us to get you caught up. Leafhoppers are known for being vectors of plant diseases throughout the plant world. What this means is that the leafhoppers behave as carriers for the disease. 

Once they’ve contracted it, they don’t take on the same side effects or negative impacts that you’d see in a plant. But, instead continue to behave normally, by feeding on a number of different plant species. In visiting various healthy plants, the insect then transfers the disease to the plant and contaminates it.

The disease that the sharpshooter specifically contracts and spreads, is the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa. This bacterium causes a number of diseases but is primarily known for its cause of Pierce’s disease of grape, phony peach disease, and Oleander leaf scorch [3].

But, as if the disease wasn’t enough, the pest has other ways of causing damage to plants. The insect projectiles, yes, projectiles, a substance that once dried leaves a white hard residue on the fruit of the plants. This residue can cause discoloration of the fruit and the need for post-harvest washing [1].

But it isn’t just their sticky droplets of projectile or the disease that they carry. The nymph stage of the insects also proposes a problem. They are known for feeding heavily on the plants they are hatched in, removing ten times their weight in plant nutrients. As a result the plants are weakened significantly, and are at risk for other harmful diseases and organisms to prey on. 

The Life of the Glassy-Winged

The lifecycle of the pest is similar to that of other pests we’ve discussed before. The female lays her eggs in groups of 3 to 28 under a set of leaves. For optimal success, the female will often choose plants like holly, sunflower, or citrus that provide ideal nutrient conditions for the nymphs. 

Once the eggs are established, the female will then projectile another white substance called bronchosomes over the eggs. These brochosomes are developed only after mating so that they can be dispersed over the egg masses [4]

The eggs will then overwinter [5] and hatch between late March and April. As the early Summer season approaches the nymphs will begin to hatch over 10 to 14 days. This cycle will allow the species to reach their peak around the Summer months and begin laying their own eggs. Once August arrives the insects will begin to decline, and start migrating to more covered areas, such as forests for hibernation.

Where to Be On the Look-Out

While these pests may be native in some parts of the country, there are plenty of places that they aren’t. 

The Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter is a large leafhopper that is native to the Southeastern part of the United States and New Mexico. [1]  However, this pest is currently invasive in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Hawaii. As a response to the identification of the glassy-winged sharpshooter as an invasive species, many of these states have implemented strict certification laws that require treatment plans for the pest. 

The Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter doesn’t seem to be incredibly partial to any one type of plant. The range of species that the pest will eat run from the common woody plant to the annual and perennial herbaceous plants [3]. This variety of preferences is part of the challenge that growers face in combating the insect.

The species indulges in somewhere around 360 different plant varieties [5]. Some of the most common plants they can be found in are acacia, avocado, crepe myrtle, grape, hibiscus, some roses, periwinkle, and eucalyptus [3]

Taking ‘Em Out

Like for so many other pests in our field, it’s important to be on a constant lookout for anything unusual with your plants. One of the best things you can do for pest management is to keep a watchful eye. Then, if you see anything unusual or that looks like signs or symptoms of a pest or disease, you can act quickly.

As part of their plan to combat Pierce’s disease, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has developed a set of guidelines to aid in their approach. Their 3rd point in their 5 point plan of action, is to “Rapid Response.” When navigating control and treatment methods, the faster you act, the more you protect [5]

On the other side of the country, the University of Florida has identified a biological control of their own. A parasitic wasp called, Gonatocerus triguttatus Girault is native to Texas and Northern Mexico and so far has had a positive impact on the control of the sharpshooter. [4]

Other methods of control for the pests that have been found to be successful include removing host plants from the areas that are infected. This cuts them off from any nutrients to keep them going, as well as preventing attraction for infestation. 

There are also treatment methods that include chemical treatments, and other community education efforts that also combat the pests. As always, look into how the chemical treatments may affect your environment before applying and use only as intended. 

Leaping Forward 

As we’ve discussed throughout this article, there are a number of different factors that contribute to the spread and development of the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter. Moving forward, as we continue to battle the pest it will be ultimately up to the efforts we make. There’s never been a better time to pull up your boot straps and double down on efforts that could protect your business.

Hopefully, a few years from now, our efforts will have been successful and this wretched pest will be a thing of the past. Until then, it is up to each of us to keep our eye on the prize and continue our hard work. 

If you’re feeling like you need some assistance in how these pests may impact your shipping avenues, let us know in the contact box below.