Cicadellidae are the tenth largest insect family
Rob plants of important nutrients
Drink human equivalent of 400 gallons per day
There are nearly 20,000 species of leafhoppers, making Cicadellidae the tenth largest insect family. Like all true bugs, they have piercing-sucking mouthparts, which they use to feed on sap tissue of plants. Most leafhoppers have camouflage coloration that lets them blend into their surroundings. Adult leafhoppers have large eyes for excellent visual acuity, are expert jumpers with powerful back legs, and strong flyers with two pairs of wings. Nymphs are wingless but capable of leaping to search for food and to avoid predators.
Leafhoppers develop through a gradual metamorphosis. Females insert their eggs into plant tissue through an ovipositor. There are five nymphal instars prior to the adult stage, emerging with small wings that expand and harden hours after emergence. They generally produce one to two generations per year.
The diet of most leafhoppers consists exclusively of nutrient-poor xylem fluid from a wide range of plant species. Over 95% water, with tiny amounts of organic and inorganic nutrient molecules, leafhoppers extract the fluid with their sucking apparatus, and must consume and filter quantities equivalent to a human drinking 400 gallons of water per day.
Leafhoppers can cause physical damage to plants by the insertion of their mouthparts or by robbing the plant of important nutrients. More important however, is their ability to transmit infectious pathogens—viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms—spreading diseases from plant to plant that are economically significant.