Smoketree Sharpshooter

Homalodisca liturata

Homalodisca liturata photo © by Michael Plagens

Photograph taken at Phoenix, Maricopa Co., Arizona. 15 June 2007.

Sharpshooters are colorful and sprightly leafhoppers about 15mm in length that draw sap from a wide variety of plants and in the process may transmit diseases such as Oleander Leaf Scorch and Pierce's Disease of grapes as they fly from plant to plant. They feed by inserting a piercing proboscis into the plant tissue and extracting fluid that is mostly water but also has sugars and nutrients. The water is a waste product and so must be expelled - thus the name sharpshooter. If an area below a plant with many sharpshooters is well lit and there is a dark background a 'rain' of expelled water droplets will be seen.

The bright white spots in the specimen at left are wax secreted from glands. A female, she will use this wax to cover and protect her eggs. These hoppers see well and will run around to the other side of the stem upon approaching danger (man or bird).

These insects existed unnoticed on various shrubs or trees in the Sonoran Desert and only gained notice when they switched to economic host plants. The specimen below was photographed on annual sunflower in Glendale, Arizona, Nov. 2012.

Homalodisca liturata photo © by Michael Plagens

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Photo by Michael Plagens

Row of oleanders afflicted with Oleander Leaf Scorch disease. Photograph taken at Phoenix, Maricopa Co., Arizona. 17 June 2007. These photos are hosted at Wikimedia

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 18 June 2007,
updated 4 November 2012