Pest & Disease: 3 tips to control passion vine hoppers the organic way

Over the past weeks, I have seen a lot of fresh bugs and insects around, which is a great reminder to remain vigilant – so let’s take a closer look at a these over the coming weeks so that you know how to protect your garden and summer crops from pesky pests the organic way.

Where did all these passion vine hoppers come from anyway?

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? The passion vine hopper only lays one load of eggs a year. The eggs can be laid from February onwards and can overwinter as eggs on host plants.

Nymphs hatch in late spring when the weather warms and then they grow into adults in the summer months and usually stick around into winter, depending on your climate. A good cold snap can put an end to the adult cycle and kill the eggs too.

lacewing egg
An egg ready to hatch

What damage do passion vine hoppers do 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 in turn this is the time that the most damage is caused.

Adult passion vine hoppers are about 6mm long and have triangle wings with a slight pattern that are see through. Passion vine hoppers have 3 pairs of legs and 2 pairs of wings hence that is why these insects are such good jumpers and can fly very quickly. Adults only take 2 weeks to mature and when dusk arrives, this is when they mate. They also lay their eggs in the late afternoon/evening, when the cooler part of the day arrives.

The female tends to lay its eggs in dead plant matter and garden stakes, but will also lay its eggs in the midribs of new young plants. The eggs are laid in neat rows. When the nymphs hatch, they feed straight away on new 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 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 and then they suck the plant juices out. Any excess juice is secreted as honeydew that puts a coating on the plants’ leaves. This coating can then cause sooty mould to grow, thus suffocating your plant, and the plant leaves may also appear sticky.

lacewing adult
An adult passion vine hopper

How do I control passion vine hoppers in my garden?

Controlling these insects is extremely hard, unless you can spot where they lay their eggs.

Tip #1: My biggest tip is observation – check your plants regularly by looking underneath leaves and between young shoots for any signs of eggs – then you can remove the leaf they have laid on.

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 #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 spray under all leaves and over every part of the plant, as they seem to be everywhere. I also recommend spraying the air before the plant, as they jump or fly straight away. I repeat the spraying weekly until the infestation becomes less.

It is all about breaking the cycle and reducing the numbers. Good luck and happy gardening

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