NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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The most common flatid planthopper in North Carolina is the citrus flatid planthopper, Metcalfa pruinosa. The citrus flatid planthopper is dark bluish-black but has a white, waxy bloom that makes the insect appear whitish or bluish-white. The eyes are orange or reddish. The 1/4 inch long adults appear during the summer. Female planthoppers insert eggs into the bark of the current year's growth where the eggs spend the winter. Nymphs hatch next spring and summer and feed by sucking sap through needle-like mouthparts they jab into the bark or leaf. As the nymphs feed, they secrete a white, fluffy secretion that covers their bodies and the twigs or leaves around it. Flatid planthopper nymphs grow to 3/16 inch long. Development from egg to adult takes a little over 5 months. Nymphs are pale green with red eyes and covered by a thick, fluffy, white, waxy secretion that also covers the stem in a sort of "nest." Nymphs are wide and flat. They can jump 12 to 18 inches when disturbed, hence the name planthopper. We have only one generation per year in North Carolina.

Citrus flatid planthopper nymphs on azalea stem.

Citrus flatid planthopper nymphs surround themselves with a fluffy secretion.

Photo by J.R. Baker

An adult citrus flatid planthopper on a twig covered by fluffy secretions of planthopper nymphs

The citrus flatid planthopper is a small, gray, spotted insect.

Citrus flatid planthoppers surrounding two pale green nymphs (lower center).

Although citrus flatid planthoppers may be abundant, they don't seem to hurt the plants they feed on.

Host Plants

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Flatid plant-hoppers feed on numerous trees, vines, and ornamental herbs. They are commonly reported on shrubs in North Carolina. Flatid planthoppers are usually not abundant enough to cause real damage to the health of ornamental plants. Their waxy secretions and the honeydew they excrete disfigure plants and make them sticky to touch. Sooty molds may grow in the honeydew, further disfiguring infested plants. Rarely are planthoppers abundant enough to kill twigs by feeding or by egg deposition under the bark.

Residential Recommendation

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Planthoppers and their nymphs can be dislodged by spraying infested shrub with a stream of water from a garden hose. No insecticide is specifically labeled for planthoppers, but contact pesticides such as pyrethroids applied for other labeled pests should more than adequately suppress planthoppers.


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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension Center

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology and Plant Pathology

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: Dec. 13, 2013
Revised: Sept. 11, 2019

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