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Empoasca fabae

Potato leafhopper damage to maple. Photo: Eric R. Day, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Bugwood.
Scientific Name: 
Empoasca fabae
Common Name: 
Potato Leafhopper
Growing Degree Days (GDD's): 
450–2155 GDD's, Base 50F, March 1st Start Date (Source: Robert Childs, UMass Extension.)
Host Plant(s) Common Name (Scientific Name): 
Apple (Malus spp.)
Birch (Betula spp.)
Chestnut (Castanea spp.)
Norway maple (Acer platanoides)
Raspberry (Rubus spp.)
Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
Walnut (Juglans spp.)
Wisteria (Wisteria spp.)
Insect Description: 

The potato leafhopper is a Hemipteran pest with piercing-sucking mouthparts that feeds in the vascular tissue, such as the phloem, on the foliage and shoots of its host plants. The common name is misleading for those managing trees and shrubs, making this insect sound like something that is only a problem in vegetables. (However, this insect can be a significant pest in alfalfa, fruit, and vegetable crops.) In areas where the insect overwinters, eggs are deposited by females in slits cut in leaf veins on the undersides of the leaf, or on petioles. As a Hemipteran, the insect undergoes incomplete metamorphosis, so only egg, nymph (immature), and adult life stages exist. There is no pupal stage. Eggs hatch 7-14 days after laying. Nymphs have 5 instars (molts) and 6 generations per year are possible in Virginia and likely 4-5 per year in Ohio. It may take only 2 weeks for nymphs to mature into the adult life stage, and an entire generation may be possible in a single month. Adults are killed with the first significant frosts. Adult potato leafhoppers are tiny (1/8 inch in length), pale green in color with a row of 6 white spots behind the head, with whitish/translucent wings. Adults are excellent at jumping and flying away, and will do so easily if disturbed. Nymphs can jump, or move quickly sideways to get away, but do not yet have wings needed to fly.

Damage to Host: 

Both leaf surfaces of Norway and sugar maples, birch, apple, chestnut, and walnut may be impacted by the feeding of the potato leafhopper, particularly on vigorously growing trees. On maples, severe stunting, foliage damage, and multiple leaders developing is possible. This insect is primarily a problem in nursery settings. Feeding from the piercing-sucking mouthpart of the insect, as well as its habit of injecting toxins from its saliva create a symptom in host plants known as "hopperburn". Hopperburn is identified by the browning of leaf edges. Occasionally, wilting can occur if the xylem also becomes damaged. The damage to shoots can also predispose them to winter damage, and many do not survive. In this case, the shoot never revives. Historically, it was thought that the potato leafhopper can not overwinter in New England due to our cold winter temperatures and the sensitivity of the egg life stage. This insect migrates northward on the prevailing winds in the early summer, typically seen in the north in late May and early June. The overwintering capacity of this insect is something that should be monitored as climate change is experienced. Initially, once arriving north, the insect is attracted to legumes (ex. alfalfa). Feeding stunts growth and damages foliage. Usually found on most succulent tissue, particularly on tree or shrub hosts.


Depending upon the crop or host plant, visual scouting may involve the use of a 15-inch sweep net to look for adults and nymphs, or sampling at least 20 stems or shoots to look for the presence of this insect.

Cultural Management: 

Certain cultivars of maple have been developed by the nursery industry that show some resistance to potato leafhopper damage. These include but are not limited to: Acer rubrum 'Somerset', Acer rubrum 'Sun Valley', and Acer rubrum 'Brandywine'.

Natural Enemies & Biological Control: 

Zoophthora radicans is a non-native fungal pathogen that has been used in experiments to manage the potato leafhopper. Cool and moist environmental conditions may be necessary for the success of this pathogen in reducing potato leafhopper populations. This fungus is known as a generalist, and capable of impacting other species of insects. Unfortunately, predators and parasitoids are not thought to play a significant role in reducing potato leafhopper populations.

Chemical Management: 

Acephate (NL)

Acetamiprid (L)

Azadirachtin (NL)

Beauveria bassiana (NL)

Bifenthrin (NL)

Bifenthrin+imidacloprid (L)

Buprofezin (NL)

Carbaryl (L)

Chromobacterium subtsugae (NL)

Chlorpyrifos (N)

Clothianidin (NL)

Deltamethrin (L)

Dinotefuran (NL)

Fenpropathrin (NL)

Tau-fluvalinate (NL)

Gamma-cyhalothrin (L)

Imidacloprid (L)

Indoxacarb (L)

Insecticidal soap (NL)

Isaria (paecilomyces) fumosoroseus (NL)

Lambda-cyhalothrin (L)

Malathion (L)

Neem oil (NL)

Permethrin (L)

Pyrethrins+piperonyl butoxide (L)

Pyrethrin+sulfur (NL)


Active ingredients that may be applied systemically include: Acephate (injection), acetamiprid (injection), azadirachtin (injection, soil drench), clothianidin (soil drench), dinotefuran (soil drench), imidacloprid (soil drench), and neem oil (soil drench).

Make insecticide applications after bloom to protect pollinators. Applications at times of the day and temperatures when pollinators are less likely to be active can also reduce the risk of impacting their populations.

Note: Beginning July 1, 2022, neonicotinoid insecticides are classified as state restricted use for use on tree and shrub insect pests in Massachusetts. For more information, visit the MA Department of Agricultural Resources Pesticide Program.

Read and follow all label instructions for safety and proper use. If this guide contradicts language on the label, follow the most up-to-date instructions on the product label. Always confirm that the site you wish to treat and the pest you wish to manage are on the label before using any pesticide. Read the full disclaimer. Active ingredients labeled "L" indicate some products containing the active ingredient are labeled for landscape uses on trees or shrubs. Active ingredients labeled "N" indicate some products containing the active ingredient are labeled for use in nurseries. Always confirm allowable uses on product labels. This active ingredient list is based on what was registered for use in Massachusetts at the time of publication. This information changes rapidly and may not be up to date. If you are viewing this information from another state, check with your local Extension Service and State Pesticide Program for local uses and regulations. Active ingredient lists were last updated: January 2024. To check current product registrations in Massachusetts, please visit: .