The Washington Times-Herald


June 10, 2014

Ever hear of a sharpshooter? This one's an insect

If you are not an entomologist or fruit grower in Hawaii, California, Tahiti, or its native habitat in Mexico, this is one insect you have probably never heard about. It has a very strange name and is a major pest where it has now become invasive. This is the glassy-winged sharpshooter.

A rather large member of the left-hopper family, the sharpshooter can cause considerable damage in fruit crops such as grapes, almonds, different citrus plants and stone fruit. It attacks the fruit by sticking its very sharp, sucking feeding tube into a nice, ripe fruit and sucks just enough liquid out of the tasty dish to ruin it for sale in some market.

As if ruining the fruit for market was not bad enough, the sharpshooter also has a very nasty habit that is most disgusting. As the glassy-wing sucks the juice from the fruit, it ejects waste fluid out of its rear end. These droplets are foul smelling and are known as “leafhopper rain.” Anything under a fruit tree that has an infestation of this leaf-hopper will soon be covered with a coat of sticky evil smelling you know what.

In its native country of Mexico the glassy-winged sharpshooter is not the major problem that it is in the area it has now invaded. This is probably because there are natural control factors in Mexico that are not found in California, Hawaii or Tahiti where it is now invasive.

To try to control this insect in its new homes, a specific virus that only is deadly to leafhoppers is now being used to try and control this out of control pest. In addition to the virus, a variety of little insects known as a parasitic fairyfly that attacks the eggs of the sharpshooter has also been found to be somewhat effective as a control measure.

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