Flatid planthoppers ~ a minor pest of palms

Adult Flatid planthoppers and exuviae (exoskeletal remains left after molting). Photo: UF Laura Sanagorski.

Green Industry professionals have seen these interesting insects around Palm Beach County. They’re not a pest to be too concerned about, but they’re definitely interesting to look at! Download a pdf of this Flatid planthopper fact sheet here.

INTRODUCTION ~ Flatid planthoppers (Oormenaria rufifascia) are minor pests of palms in Florida.  They can be found on the lower surfaces of fanlike palm fronds.

HOSTS ~ Flatid planthoppers can be found on cabbage palmetto, Sabal palmetto, and saw palmetto, Serenoa repens. Mexican fan palm, Washingotnia robusta, Chinese fan palm, Livistonia chinensis, Everglades (Paurotis) palm, Acoelorraphe wrigtii, and Red Latan palm, Lantania lonteroides, are among other hosts of this insect.

Adult Flatid planthopper. Photo: UF Laura Sanagorski.

IDENTIFICATION ~ Flatid planthoppers are triangular in shape and are flat underneath.  They have yellow-orange eyes and are light green/blue in color, with bright orange markings around their head.  They have two red-orange stripes towards the front of the upper surface of their bodies; their wings are bordered in a lighter yellow.  Juveniles are light green in color, with some orange markings that may be covered up by waxy flocculent.

Numerous adult Flatid planthoppers found on lower surface of palm frond. Photo: UF Laura Sanagorski.

LIFE CYCLE ~ The eggs have not been seen; entomologists believe this is because eggs are laid between leaf surfaces.  Flatid planthoppers have one generation per year.  Eggs are believed to hatch around January, and maturation into adults can occur by around May in South Florida.  Juveniles and adults are found mostly on older palm fronds; this is likely due to the fact that these fronds are more horizontal and provide protection.

LANDSCAPE MANAGEMENT ~   There is generally no need to treat for this pest in the landscape, as damage is minimal.  Flatid planthoppers, like whiteflies and thrips, have piercing / sucking mouthparts that allow them to feed on the nutrients of a plant.  They also produce honeydew, which can support the growth of sooty mold.   Growth of sooty mold can be of greater concern than direct insect damage.  There are no chemical recommendations or insecticides specifically labelled for management of these insects.  Physical removal, such as that with a heavy spray from a hose, will greatly reduce this insect’s population.

References and Further Reading ~

Howard, F.W., and Halbert, S.  (2005). Flatid Planthopper, Oormenaria rufifascia (Walker) (Insecta: Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha: Flatidae).  UF / IFAS.  Available at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN64300.pdf

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