Potato leafhopper management in chestnuts

Potato leafhoppers are an important pest of chestnuts and can cause significant damage when left unchecked.

Like many plants, chestnuts are sensitive to the saliva of potato leafhoppers that is injected by the insect while feeding. Damage to leaf tissue can cause reduced photosynthesis, which can impact production and quality and damage the tree. Most injury occurs on new tissue on shoot terminals with potato leafhoppers feeding near the edges of the leaves using piercing-sucking mouthparts.

Symptoms of feeding appear as whitish dots arranged in triangular shapes near the edges. Heavily damaged leaves are cupped with dead and or yellowing chlorotic margins and eventually fall from the tree (Photo 1). Severely infested shoots produce small, bunched leaves with reduced photosynthetic capacit (Photo 2).

Potato leafhopper damage
Photo 1. Cupped and necrotic chestnut leaves caused by potato
leafhopper feeding. Photo credit: Erin Lizotte, MSUE

Potato leafhopper damage
Photo 2. Stunted and deformed leaves caused by potato
leafhopper feeding. Photo credit: Erin Lizotte, MSUE

Adult leafhoppers are pale to bright green and about 1/8 inch long (Photo 3). Adults are easily noticeable, jumping, flying or running when agitated. The nymphs (immature leafhoppers) are pale green and have no wings, but are very similar in form to the adults.

Adult potato leafhopper
Photo 3. Potato leafhopper on chestnut. Photo credit: Mario Mandujano, MSU

Potato leafhoppers move in all directions when disturbed, unlike some leafhoppers that have a distinct pattern of movement. Potato leafhoppers can’t survive Michigan’s winter and survive in the Gulf States until adults migrate north in the spring on storm systems.

Scouting should be performed weekly as soon as leaf tissue is present to ensure detection early and prevent injury. More frequent spot checks should be done following rain storms which carry the first populations north. For every acre of orchard, Michigan State University Extension says to select five trees to examine and inspect the leaves on three shoots per tree (a total of 15 shoots per acre). The easiest way to observe potato leafhoppers is by flipping the shoots or leaves over and looking for adults and nymphs on the underside of leaves. Pay special attention to succulent new leaves on the terminals of branches.

The most common classes of insecticides recommended for control of potato leafhoppers include the pyrethroids, carbamates, neonicotinoids and organophosphates (Table 1). Carbamates and organophosphates are broad spectrum and can disrupt natural enemies, so only use when necessary to rotate insecticidal mode of action or to target another pest at the same time. Pyrethroids are also effective at controlling potato leafhoppers and remain relatively inexpensive. However, pyrethroids have been shown to cause increases in mite populations in other crops and should be used judiciously, particularly early in the season when mite populations have time to build over the season. Neonicotinoids are longer lasting and narrow spectrum making them a solid choice for management.

Table 1. Insecticides with activity against potato leafhoppers.

Chemical class (IRAC group)

Active ingredient

Products labeled



Cheminova Malathion 57%, Malathion 57 EC, Malathion 8 Aquamal


Imidan 70W



Carbaryl 4L, Sevin 4F, Sevin 80 WSP, Sevin 80S, Sevin XLR Plus, Sevin SL



Bifenture 10DF, Bifenture EC, Brigade WSB, Fanfare 2 EC, Sniper


Baythroid XL


Renounce 20 WP, Tombstone, Tombstone Helios


Declare, Proaxis


Grizzly Z, Kaiso 24WG, Lambda T, Lambda-CY EC, Lambdastar, Lambdastar 1CS, Lamcap, Nufarm Lambda-Cyhalothrin 1EC, Paradigm, Province, Silencer, Taiga Z, Warrior II with Zeon, Warrior with Zeon, Willowood Lambda-CY 1EC


Pyganic EC 1.4 II, Pyganic EC 5.0 II


Mustang, Mustang Max, Mustang Maxx, Respect, Respect EC


Delta Gold


Danitol 2.4EC Spray

Pyrethroid(3) + Pyrethroid(3)

Bifenthrin** + Zeta-cypermethrin**

Hero EW, Steed

Pyrethroids(3) + Neonicitinoids(4A)

Cyfluthrin** + Imidacloprid

Leverage 2.7

Lambdacyhalothrin**; Thiamethoxam

Endigo ZC

Beta-cyfluthrin** + Imidacloprid

Leverage 360

Bifenthrin** + Imidacloprid

Brigadier, Swagger 



Admire Flex 4, Admire Pro, Advise 2F, Amtide Imidacloprid 2F, Agri Star MACHO 2.0 FL, Agri Star MACHO 4.0, Couraze 2F, Couraze 4, Couraze 4F, Mana Alias 4F, Monatna 2F, Monatana 4F, Nuprid 1.6F, Nuprid 2F, Nuprid 2SC, Nuprid 4.6F Pro, Nuprid 4F Max, Pasada 1.6F, Pasada 75WSB, Provado 1.6F, Sherpa, Trimax Pro, Widow, Wrangler


Flagship 25WG2


Assail 30SG, Assail 70WP



** Products containing these active ingredients are classified as a restricted use pesticides and require the applicator to retain a pesticide applicator license.
1. Supplemental label subject to annual renewal.
2. For use on nonbearing trees only.

This document is meant as a starting point. Keep in mind that pesticide labels and registrations are constantly changing and always use the label as the final authority on proper use.

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