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 length is about 1/4 inch. Adults appear during the summer. Females insert their planthopper 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 needlelike mouthparts they insert into the bark or leaf. As the nymphs feed, they secrete a white, fluffy secretion that covers its body and the twig or leaf 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 surround themselves with a fluf

Citrus flatid planthopper nymphs surround themselves with a fluffy secretion.

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

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

Although citrus flatid planthoppers may be abundant, they don't

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 Cooperative Extension Center

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology and Plant Pathology

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

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