Leafhoppers - what to use?

julianna_il(z6 IL)July 4, 2008

I've been seeing some pretty bugs on my butterfly weed and unfortunately they're red banded leaf hoppers. Not enough to worry about, IMO. But I'm starting to see some little brownish leaf hoppers in that big garden, and noticing the tell-tale signs of leaf hopper damage. They suck the juice from the leaves, and the leaves get spotted.

I've also been invaded by some Japanese beetles and they're all sexed up, just coupling way too much. I smash them and hopefully can keep them under control by hand.

I also have a zillion aphids on the butterfly weed, but I've been smashing them with a gloved finger and leaving some for the ladybugs. They like them.

I'm worried about the leaf hoppers, though. A couple of years ago, my tomatoes were totally destroyed by them. In this garden, I've got a lot of dahlias I'm worried about, along with cukes/honeydew/squash.

Do leaf hoppers do damage to the curcurbits? I've lost one Blue Hubbard squash, but I'm sure it was a vine borer. I've squirted a little bit of spinosad at the base of the stems. It may be too little too late, but worth a try.

I do know the leaf hoppers can ruin my dahlias if they get out of hand.

What I'm wondering, does anyone have experience with leaf hoppers and what's the safest thing to use on them? I'm not going to put anything on my butterfly weed, because I have a lot of it, and its purpose is...butterflies. I won't do anything that could harm them. (They're the reason I went organic in the first place)

In my arsenal I have:


diat. earth

neem (that I've only used once and wasn't impressed with)

kaolin clay

I bought the clay last year, but have never used it.

I was thinking of spraying the clay on the curcurbits as a preventative (and it won't hurt anyone, just makes things not taste good) and sprinkling a light dusting of diat. earth on the dahlia leaves.

I have a LOT of different kinds of bees, but they mostly go for the lavender that is blooming and the blooming sages, plus a butterfly bush. I don't want to hurt my bees. We live in harmony and I love my bees.

I'm not sure the bees go to the dahlias...I've never seen them; they're really into the lavender. That's why I was thinking the d. earth there.

Thoughts anyone?

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I would recommend this book to solve your problem.

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic Food Gardening

    Bookmark   July 4, 2008 at 10:23PM
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julianna_il(z6 IL)
    Bookmark   July 4, 2008 at 10:45PM
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Leaf hoppers can be controlled much the same as Aphids, with sharp streams of water, and by encouraging predatory insects to hang around to eat the wee buggers. As a last resort you could use Neem Oil or pyrethrin based dusts or sprays. The OMRI people have reservations about the use of Spinosad.

Here is a link that might be useful: OMRI on Spinosad

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 6:55AM
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julianna_il(z6 IL)

I'd be more inclined to use Neem than the other. The pyrethrins really scare me. (Neem does to a certain degree too)

That's disappointing about Spinosad. Thanks for the link.

I did have a lot of hover flies around, but I haven't seen as many lately. I'm not sure why. I think I may try the kaolin clay today and see how that goes.

Thanks, Kimmsr!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 2:09PM
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Hi Juliana-
I also love, love my bumbles (who seem to focus here on Catmint and Lythrium) and have been reluctant to use Pyrethrin or Acephate on my leafhopper bitten dahlias.

I am wondering what you finally chose and if you have seen any improvement.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 5:02PM
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julianna_il(z6 IL)

Hi Lucinda!

I've been keeping an eye on things, and knock on wood, they haven't gotten out of control. So I haven't used anything. But I'm keeping watch and if they did start doing some real damage, I've decided I'm going to try Kaolin Clay, which I have on hand but have never used. It's a kind of clay they use in orchards, you spray it on things and most bugs get sticky feet or don't like to chew through it. It's used in makeup, so pretty safe stuff.

Do you do any companion planting? I've become a big fan of that; I think I've had some successes with it. One thing you can try is planting geraniums and petunias among your dahlias. Those supposedly repel leafhoppers.

I've got some of those planted throughout, but I don't know if they really work or it's just luck. I do have a garden FULL of beneficial insects, so it's possible those guys are eating them too.

Another idea, a praying mantis egg? I did one of those last year - didn't see even one praying mantis, but I had NO bad insects other than a minor infestation of flea beetles (I grow a lot of eggplant and they love that) Unfortunately, they do eat one another plus the ladybugs.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 9:35PM
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Hey Juliana-

Companion planting? Well roses are supposed to love garlic and although the garlic did well, I saw no benefit for the roses (shucks). I grow potted geraniums for my wrap porch, and I will put a couple out in bug territory and see if they help(am assuming they don't have to be planted in the soil).

I must have spent 5 hours yesterday in the field of entymology and on one of the sites I read something about insecticidal soaps (and I assume they are not organic)dissolving or otherwise having a negative impact on the soft bodies of the leafhoppers so the Kaolin thing makes some sense.

I think this year is too late for the praying mantis but I am praying to remember to buy some eggs next spring.

thanks, Lucinda

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 10:48AM
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julianna_il(z6 IL)

I think putting the pots of geraniums around the dahlias would be worth a try. I keep some plastic buckets of mint (because it would take over if I planted it) and move that around my various eggplants. I think it helps, though doesn't completely get rid of the flea beetles.

On the insecticidal soaps, some are organic. The main thing is to really research what you might use and find out 1) that they'll work on the bug you're after and 2) what beneficial insects it might hurt. Even though things might be organic, they can still hurt good bugs, and especially the bees.

I'm so protective of my bees and wasps, and they seem to understand it. They fly all around me as I work, I stick my hands next to them and I've never been stung.

Good luck, and let me know how it all goes.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 12:51PM
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Insecticidal Soap sprays have been a part of the organic gardeners arsenal since at least the 1960's and work quite well if real soap is used in a 1 percent solution. Real soap, not a detergent, is one where the fats are reacted with lye, a caustic substance, and there are very few around today.
Mixing 1 teaspoon of soap in 1 quart of water makes a very effective broad spectrum spray that has limited residual action, if you do not spray your target insect once the soap is dry there is not more activity from it, which is why it is acceptable to organic gardeners. But like any other "chemical" control this needs to be used judiciously and only if other, less toxic, means of control do not work.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 6:57AM
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