It’s that time of year once again – the time to be vigilant as there are fresh bugs and insects aplenty in our gardens, scouting for food sources and places to breed. Let’s take a closer look at one of the peskiest critters that you will be spotting in your garden very shortly, as I reveal how to protect your garden and summer crops the organic way.
What is a passion vine hopper and why are they everywhere?
The passion vine hopper can be prolific in our gardens and people often remark that, all of a sudden, there are so many – where did they come from? In actual fact, the passion vine hopper lays eggs just once per year, from February onwards, but they can overwinter as eggs on host plants.
Nymphs hatch in late spring when the weather warms, and grow into adults over summer. They even stick around into winter, depending on your climate, but a good cold snap can put an end to the adult cycle and kill the eggs too.
Why are passion vine hoppers a problem in my garden?
Both the nymphs and the adults attack new young growing shoots, feeding on the sap of the plants, thus destroying new growth and causing damage to the plants. September to April is their biggest feeding time, so this is the time that the most damage is caused.
Adult passion vine hoppers are about 6mm long and have see-through triangle wings with a slight pattern. Passion vine hoppers are very good jumpers and can fly really quickly – thanks to three pairs of legs and two pairs of wings – making them harder to catch. Adults only take two weeks to mature and, when dusk arrives, this is when they mate. They lay their eggs in the late afternoon/evening, during the cooler temperatures.
The female tends to lay its eggs in dead plant matter and garden stakes, but will also lay its eggs in neat little rows in the midribs of new young plants. When the nymphs hatch, they feed straight away on young shoots.
The nymph has five stages of development and the most common one we observe is when they develop their fluffy bums. When touched, these ‘fluffy bums’ jump so quickly, but miraculously seem to land on a plant nearby. Have a look under your plant leaves for clusters of these fluffy bum nymphs.
The adults have very sharp, piercing mouth-parts, which are pushed into the tender part of the plant to suck the plant juices out. Any excess juice is secreted as honeydew that puts a sticky coating on the plants’ leaves, and it can then cause sooty mould to grow, suffocating your plant.
How do I control passion vine hoppers in my garden organically?
Controlling these insects is extremely hard, unless you can spot where they lay their eggs. Sometimes, we can be fooled into thinking there is nothing to be done in the garden but, in these times, I recommend going around your garden and checking cracks in the bark of your fruit trees and looking on the underside of leaves for eggs and bugs. Another good way to spot these is if your leaves are all curled up – then you can pretty much guarantee that something is happening on the underside of the leaf!
Tip #1: My biggest tip for controlling passion vine hoppers is via observation – check your plants regularly by looking underneath leaves and between young shoots for any sign of eggs, removing the leaf they have laid on.
Tip #2: A good way to start your control of these pests is to grow plants that attract predator insects such as borage, alyssum and lavender. By planting these beneficial plants, it attracts the right kind of insect that will pray on the nymphs and eat them. These insects are hard to kill as they move so quickly, so it’s helpful to leave it to their natural-born predators. Nature always has a way.
Tip #3: I use a potent organic combination of EnSpray 99 oil and Liquid Kelp – my secret weapons! Spray in the evening, as these pests are much less active then. I recommend spraying the air first before you try to spray the plant itself, as they jump or fly so fast that you can catch them mid-air! I then spray under all leaves and over every part of the plant, as they seem to be everywhere. Repeat the spraying weekly until the infestation reduces.
It is all about breaking the cycle and reducing the numbers.
If you’re looking for more guidance on pests and disease, along with companion planting, you might want to consider joining my membership site, The Grow Inspired Academy. Here, I can teach you how to manage your pests the organic way through a whole host of methods; along with detailed coaching on how to grow food and compost. We’re not accepting new members right now, but you can sign up to be the first to know when we open our doors next! Discover more here!