Keeled Treehoppers (Antianthe expansa) Need a Plan

Iwalani(Sunset 24/z10)March 14, 2006

In the past these guys have taken over my tomato plants by July or so and do a lot of significant damage! Birds don't want them and neither does anything else! The adults are very wary and can see you coming and move to the other side of the stem and they blend in so perfectly to begin with that finding them is very difficult. They pierce and suck and just do way more stunting to the plant than you'd imagine from their cute photos linked to below.

In the past a strong soap solution worked on the black larvae. But so does blasting them off with water and anything you would use with aphids. (These guys are so much more damaging than even the giant colonies of aphids that its not even funny.)

Its the adults that are a real problem. Their armor like shell is impossible to crush with anything but a rock. Very hard to use fingers because of the projections on their exterior-- like little thorns. But so very strong. Amazingly strong exoskeleton or whatever its called. They're well designed that's for sure.

They also move and hide and hop back on when disturbed or tossed aside. They're difficult to detect on bushy tomato plants (which is where they like to be.) I am not sure of the color of the eggs nor where they are laid nor have I found much info on that to make me confident of egg elimination. Soap solution makes the adults laugh at you. Pyrethrins also have no noticable effect.

And I also haven't read how they get to the initial location to begin with. If they overwinter in soil or fly or what. If anyone can lead me to an extensive article about their biology it would be much appreciated. I just can't find much.

My tentative plan is to just be out there every other day spraying the bushes down with a serious blaster and hand pick all that I can- toss in deep bucket and use a brick for mass smashing. This is going to be exhausting. But its very depressing and disheartening to see the damage they do on the plants. I normally never have pest problems and even when they do show up they're so easy to deal with. Not these guys. They're completely evil.

I would appreciate any advice one might have with regards to these guys...

Here is a link that might be useful: Cute photos of the destructive Keeled (Keelbacked) Treehopper

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suze9(z8b Bastrop Co., TX)

And I also haven't read how they get to the initial location to begin with.

I can't find much about them either (and nothing re possible suggestions for eradication), but they appear to be farmed by ants, just like aphids are. So that might be an approach for you -- look for and kill the ants.

Have you tried something like carbaryl (Sevin) to see if there's any effect on the adults?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 9:44PM
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Iwalani(Sunset 24/z10)

I haven't tried Sevin. Its a thought. Hadn't thought of it.

I did think of calling our Master Gardener hotline today. And managed to stump two of them before the third found them referenced in a tree and landscape book.

They were listed as Buffalo Treehoppers. Same latin name.

They apparently overwinter as eggs under the bark of many common trees and will in fact infect the trees. Like poplar, oak, ash and others.

Don't know if they fly/how mobile the adults are.

Only said they were "FOUND all over the US." Didn't mention an origin nor native area.

Recommended control with insecticidal soap and pyrethrins.

The eggs ARE laid inside the stem of the plant in the soft tissue.

No mention of length of larvae/egg/adult cycle.

Oh and he also mentioned farming by ants and that the larvae produce a honeydew. However I never had an ant problem. I'm sure I didn't have ants. But will certainly watch for them!! I usually do because they lead right to the aphids and scale on my gardenias and I'm always pausing and looking for ants because they're a dead giveaway that "something bad" is happening on my plants even if I can't figure it out right away. :)

Laying eggs in the stem... no wonder they are so destructive. I may just "lean towards" breaking off the tips from where I see the adults if its at all possible. Because i'd be removing eggs and the stems will already be damaged enough to not perform well down the road.

Well that is one good plan I can put into place where possible. Tomatoes grow back. And if I can remove the infected portions of the plants early and thoroughly that may make significant strides against the invasion.

I wish I could find out more about their biology. I wonder if UC Davis had a 1-800 pest hotline. I will have to find out.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2006 at 3:39AM
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Holy Cow!!!! Thank you so much for this post!!!! I have been trying to figure out what the great horrible colonies of spiky black things on my tomatoes were--- juvie stage of the treehopper!!! I've had big (3") long swaths of things that looked like black aphids along with the spiky (and faster) things (I guess 1st and 2nd stage juveniles) on the lower, sneaky, hidden branches of my tomatoes and could not for the life of me figure out what they were. Looked everywhere for pictures of them. Was trying to think of how to describe them (my camera doesn't have the resolution yours does) and all I could think of was wet, insectile tricerotops in black!

Whee! now I know what they are.

OK, in the juvie stage (black aphidy things and the spiky things) they bite the dust with Safer Garden Spray immediately. Spray, they're dead in 3 hours. HOWEVER, they leave open wounds on the plant when you wash 'em off. All mine were on the low end of the branches which meant that unless I was really careful watering, nasty spores got into the wounds -- so once they die, you have to water really carefully.

Safer seemed to have no affect on the adults (of course, I had no clue they were related....). Neem oil seemed to get 'em, but it wasn't immediate -- I just found about 10 corpses on the dirt a day after I Neemed the plant.

Oh, and yes, I did have ants in the two pots that I had the nasty black things in. Couldn't figure out what they were playing with since I didn't see any aphids, scale, etc....

Thanks so much for your pix!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 11:09PM
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Damn.... love the "tricerotop" ref! I was calling them 'stout pibull looking spiky black things, low to the rear, high in the shoulder with a head hump"

Tricerotop is more to the point!

Okay so I might have gotten luck... spotted them for first time today, so might have caught them in time. I sprayed the organic "Flea and Tick pet and bedding spray" (from Petco) that I use on my dogs.... later after some reading I went back out with a soap spray solution... to find most of the critters gone. So they either hide at night... or the flea and tick spray got them. Anyway... sprayed with the soap.. and will be vigilant now, before they make adult.

I have NO ANTS... so I don't understand the clustering. As well... some of my tomato stems are "lumpy"... does this indicate areas brimming with laid eggs? I have a mix of Roma, Grape, and general small/medium 'round' tomatoes.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 2:57AM
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Damn... almost 3 years to the day?!!! Hope my replies help others faster....

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 3:20AM
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It's another year later and I've just utilized your information. Nasty little beasts these things are. So...thanks for the assist to identify them.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 7:57PM
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Ha! It took me two years to figure out what these bastards are! No pest specialist could identify my verbal descriptions. The larvae destroyed over twenty of tomato plants last year. This year I kept a close eye on the adults not knowing the larva where related. I would just watch the plants and follow the ants and they would lead me to an adult treehopper. I would snatch it in my palm and throw him to his death like a football player does a football in the endzone. It worked pretty well. I only had a few this year and a few larva but destryed the larva quickly with pyrethrins which kills the ants as well. It took a month on close watch but I've been treehopper-free for two months!!!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 1:31PM
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I think adult praying mantids would enjoy those.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 1:42AM
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Massed on one species of my red miniature tomatoes this summer in Los Alamitos, Orange County, California July 2012. I've just now sprayed with Bonide Eight Insect Control for Vegetables, Fruit, & Flowers. I also now notice the adult green leafhoppers amidst all these young black spiny immatures. It is 7:30 pm here and still light, but calm without winds so I thought it'd be a good time to spray. I hope in the morning I do not find them anywhere!

Here is a link that might be useful: antianthe expansa identification

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 10:40PM
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hotzcatz(Hamakua, Hawaii)

Spraying them with water doesn't kill them off at all. All the water spray does is spread them to the other tomatoes and now the bean plants. I'll see what sort of insecticidal sprays we have around here. Sulphur spray doesn't slow them down, either. We are having a dry spell at the moment and they are sucking plant juices and drying out and killing the tomato plants. Not helping the beans, much, either.

I did find them listed under "Antianthe expansa"

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 5:40PM
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hotzcatz(Hamakua, Hawaii)

Ooops, sorry didn't quite finish the post before hitting "send".

Anyway, I did find them listed under that latin name along with a whole classification for them:

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hemiptera (True Bugs, Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids and Allies)
Suborder Auchenorrhyncha (Free-living Hemipterans)
Superfamily Cicadoidea
Family Membracidae (Treehoppers)
Genus Antianthe
Species expansa (Keeled Tree Hopper)
Other Common Names
Solanaceous Treehopper
Mainly neotropical.

Which is all great information about what they are, but doesn't tell me anything about how to get rid of them. At this point, I'm not even concerned about "organic" the infestation is so widespread, something drastic will probably have to be used.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 5:44PM
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I discovered these nasty little critters before they had gotten to more than 2 of my tomato plants. I didn't know what they were or how to handle them. The adults are very hard, and the nymphs are small but SLOW. I took a bowl with about half a container of rubbing alcohol outside, with a pair of bamboo tongs (very narrow, about 1/3 inch wide at tips) and picked both nymphs and adults off the plants and dropped them in the alcohol. It was a lot of work, but it worked JUST DANDY. I then sprayed the plants with Deadbug organic spray, and kept an eye on them. No more of them that season (2012). We'll see what happens this year. I bought more alcohol and am keeping my bamboo tongs handy. Little buggers!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 12:18AM
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And here I am Still making use of this information. I have fought them for years! They really love the eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, poha berry.
Insecticidal soaps, pyrethrins, neem seem to work well. Pyrethrin- rotenone does a pretty good job on the adults.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 2:12AM
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good day gardeners, to get rid of the little treehoppers use masking tape. gently place the sticky part of the tape on the grouped keeled treehoppers, then smash em. this also works on any small pest. tend to this pest asap! happy gardening!!!!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 12:22AM
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