Bridal creeper leafhopper resting on a leaf.

Both adult and juvenile stages of the bridal creeper leafhopper feed on the leaves of bridal creeper.

Bridal creeper leafhopper

The bridal creeper leafhopper is one of three biocontrol agents helping control this environmental weed.

  • 1 June 2009 | Updated 14 October 2011

Background

In July 1999 the bridal creeper leafhopper Zygina species (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) was approved for release as a biocontrol agent for bridal creeper.

The leafhopper was released onto bridal creeper infestations across temperate Australia between 1999 and 2003. Whilst the leafhopper readily establishes at most release sites, their performance is highly variable.

In many places leafhoppers simply establish, with populations remaining in numbers too low to make an impact on the weed. At other sites they perform extremely well, spreading considerable distances and causing early defoliation of bridal creeper.

Taxonomy

The leafhopper is a small white insect approximately two millimetres long and damages bridal creeper by sucking the photosynthetic cells of the leaf. Feeding damage appears as white spots, often in a zig-zag pattern visible from the upper leaf surface.

Leafhoppers have sucking mouthparts that pierce the cell walls of bridal creeper leaves extracting cell contents.

Females lay their eggs into bridal creeper leaves. Eggs hatch into nymphs (juveniles) that also feed on the photosynthetic cells.

There are five nymphal stages, and each stage is preceded by a moult where the exoskeleton is shed to enable the nymph to grow.

Nymphs are wingless and walk from leaf to leaf. When the final moult occurs the leafhopper becomes an adult with wings enabling it to move considerable distances.

How to redistribute leafhoppers

When a site becomes heavily infested with leafhoppers, for example when most of the foliage is 80-90 per cent white with feeding damage, it is possible to transport leafhoppers to another site.

Moving leafhoppers from one site to another will only work if the site is heavily infested with the insects. This occurs approximately 18 months after the leafhopper is first released and must be done before October.

To find the nearest release site of the leafhopper in your area see the Bridal creeper: map of agent release sites.

Please note that bridal creeper or leafhoppers cannot be collected from a National Park or A-class reserve without a permit. Also many of the sites are on private property so be sure to contact the landholder before entering a property.

The five nymphal stages of the bridal creeper leafhopper.

The bridal creeper has five nymphal stages before becoming a winged adult.

Bridal creeper seedling with feeding damage by the leafhopper.

Leafhopper feeding damage appears as white spots on bridal creeper leaves.


The following steps outline how to redistribute leafhoppers to a new site:
  1. Take large plastic bags and secateurs to a previous release site.
  2. Cut a large bunch of heavily infested foliage and quickly put in the plastic bag.
  3. Harvest foliage in early morning when temperatures are low, to optimise the collection of adults.
  4. Seal the bag with an elastic band and keep out of the sun while travelling to the next site.
  5. At the new release site, remove the harvested foliage from the plastic bag while holding it over the bridal creeper infestation.
  6. Tease foliage apart and spread thinly over the resident bridal creeper, pushing the cut foliage into the infestation as you go.
  7. Invert the plastic bag and shake off any nymphs and adults stuck to the bag.

Within a week, the harvested foliage will have died and the nymphs and adults will have moved on and started to feed on the resident bridal creeper.

To keep accurate records of release sites across Australia, please forward information on the location and nature of release by completing a Bridal creeper agent release form.