Have you seen this bug?

August 29, 2019 7:33 AM
Blog Post

Yesterday, while waiting for my field day stop to begin at the ISU Northeast Research Farm, I noticed a bright green insect land on my leg. At first glance, I thought it was the threecornered alfalfa hopper (Photos 1 and 2). I’ve never seen one in real life and was surprised to see it in northeastern Iowa (and what good luck to land on me!). It is a frequent soybean and alfalfa pest in the south but my lab has never collected it during all my sampling in soybean since 2009. Back in the office today, I tried to confirm the species of this beautiful bug. After a little searching online (thanks, BugGuide!) and getting a closer look with a microscope, I think it is buffalo treehopper (Photo 3).

Threecornered alfalfa hopper.
Photo 1. Threecornered alfalfa treehopper. Clemson University, www.ipmimages.org.

Threecornered alfalfa hopper.
Photo 2. Male threecornered alfalfa treehoppers have a red-orange stripe on the smooth “shoulders.” Graham Montgomery, www.bugguide.net.

Buffalo treehopper.
Photo 3. Buffalo treehopper, note triangular “thorns” behind the head. Erin Hodgson, ISU.

Threecornered alfalfa hopper nymphs and adults use their piercing-sucking stylets to feed. Repeated piercing in the same area of the main stem generates a swollen area and can result in a girdled effect, causing the stem to lodge and break off. The buffalo treehoppers are not considered field crop pests, and feed on black locust, elm, goldenrod and willow.


Erin Hodgson Professor

Dr. Erin Hodgson started working in the Department of Entomology, now the Department of Plant Pathology, Entomology, and Microbiology, at Iowa State University in 2009. She is a professor with extension and research responsibilities in corn and soybeans. She has a general background in integrated...