Glassy-winged sharpshooter: declared pest

Page last updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2022 - 1:35pm

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Glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca vitripennis) is a sucking leafhopper known to be a vector to bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, which causes various serious plant diseases. This insect pest is not present in Western Australia. Its early detection and reporting will improve chances of eradication and containment to help protect fruit, nut, nursery and viticulture industries in WA from the harmful exotic bacteria.

What plants are affected?

  • The glassy-winged sharpshooter has a host range of over 200 plant species, including almond, cherry, citrus, grapes, macadamia, peach, pecan and plum.
  • Host preference changes throughout the year, depending on the availability and nutritional value of host plants.

What do I look for?

  • Adult leafhoppers are dark brown (12-14mm long) with whitish to yellow abdomen, and yellow-orange face and legs. Body covered with ivory or yellowish spots on head and back.
  • Large head with prominent eyes and large smoky-brown transparent wings with reddish veins. Wingless, greyish nymphs have a body shape like the adults.
  • This pest is often found feeding on woody plant tissues such as stems, trunks, branches and leaf petioles.
  • Masses of up to 27 eggs, dusted with whitish powder, laid in side-by-side rows on underside of recently expanded leaves.
  • Green water blisters to tan or brown scars on the leaves develop as eggs hatch.
  • Leaves, stems, and fruit may present a whitewashed appearance (leafhopper rain, a result of their liquid excrement drying on the affected surfaces.
Glassy winged sharpshooter eggs are laid in a line under the leaves
Eggs are arranged side by side under the foliage
nymph of Glassy winged sharpshooter
Nymphs moult five times before becoming winged adults

How does the pest survive and spread?

  • Glassy-winged sharpshooters ingest 100 to 300 times their dry body weight in xylem fluid per day, with feeding times coinciding with the period of peak nutrient content in the host plant. 
  • They have a digestive system adapted to filter the ingested fluid and improve nutrient absorption.
  • Adults hibernate in forest areas over winter. The survivors will create new colonies in spring.
  • Adult and nymphs can move between tree areas and pastures. Glassy-winged sharpshooters are strong fliers and can move rapidly from plant to plant. Wingless nymphs can spread throughout the orchard by walking and jumping through the canopy or along the ground to a new host.
  • Spread over long distances is facilitated by human activity, with eggs transported on nursery stock of either crop or ornamental plants.

What damage can this pest cause?

  • As a vector of Xylella diseases, the glassy-winged sharpshooter is a serious threat to Australia’s viticulture, citrus, stone fruit, nut and nursery industries. Infected plants cannot be cured of the disease.
  • They are very good flyers, making them able to transmit plant diseases further than other vector leafhoppers.
  • Feeding on plants rarely causes significant plant damage, although the insects do excrete high volume of liquid (leafhopper rain) that can make leaves and fruit appear whitewashed when dry.
  • Large populations of glassy-winged sharpshooters:
    • may cause small plants to wilt in hot weather because of their feeding habits.
    • can be a nuisance to cars parked under shade trees as these tend to become spotted with watery excreta.

Status in Western Australia

Homalodisca vitripennis is absent from Australia and is a quarantine pest. It is a prohibited organism under section 12 of the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007.

Western Australia's Pest Freedom for glassy-winged sharpshooter is supported by general and specific surveillance and specific import requirements to prevent its entry.

A person who finds or suspects the presence of glassy-winged sharpshooter in orchards, vineyards, bushland, natural reserves, plantations, nurseries, or urban areas must report it to DPIRD.

What do I do if I find it?

It is important that any suspect glassy-winged sharpshooter occurrence is reported. Early detection and eradication will help protect Western Australia’s wine and grape production, and fruit and nursery industries. If you find or suspect plants with glassy-winged sharpshooter, please make a report using MyPestGuide® Reporter or contact the Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS) to report this pest.

Report your observations

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Pest and Disease Information Service
(08) 9368 3080

Contact information

Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS)
+61 (0)8 9368 3080
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