Plant Therapy: Leafhoppers

The benefit of organic gardening is that you don’t spray toxic insecticides on plants you’re going to eat.  The challenge is paying attention to your plants to prevent problems before they get bigger.

I noticed a bug was attracted to my basil plant.  First there was only one or two, but then there started to be more.  I wondered if they were little grasshoppers, but I didn’t see any chewed up leaves.  The leaves started to turn pale and yellow, and they folded inward instead of laying flat.  

I did a little research and realized these were leafhoppers.

20080526 - Leafhoppers on basil - 1

Leafhoppers are sap-sucking bugs.  They are pests because they will drain the life out of your plants.  If you sit and watch them, you’ll see honeydew drops coming out of the tail end.  Every few seconds, another little drop forms.  

20080526 - Leafhopper closeup

They come in many species.  This red-banded leafhopper landed on my spearmint.

20080528 - Red-banded leafhopper on mint

I tried to get rid of them with a solution of soapy water, but even when I sprayed them directly, they didn’t budge.  I flicked them off, and they kept coming back.  I was stumped.  Then I decided to cover the basil with netting.  I bought tulle from the craft store, arranged it over the plant, and secured it with a rubberband around the rim of the pot.

20080604 - Basil bride

Notice how sickly and yellow the leaves look?  This was a couple of weeks ago, when I first covered the basil with the netting.  Now that the bugs can’t get to the plant, it’s thriving again.  I gave it an extra boost of compost, and the new leaves are growing vibrant green. 

Next we’ll look at common plant pests you might not recognize.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Thanks for the excellent photos – so often when one tries to identify pests on their plants, the photos are useless.

  2. I never knew about those bugs before, I’ll have to let my SIL know, I have no plants :( maybe next year.

  3. I like the netting idea. I just made some garlic spray because of some bug issues in my garden and it seems to be helping.

  4. You’re such a good plant mama. That’s a skill I have yet to acquire. Maybe someday. Grow, Basil, grow!

  5. Sohelee Tahmina says:

    thanks very much…have been through the posts since last few days and find them really useful. i have always this nag for gardening and used to do a lot when was a child. after many years am trying it again. it’s a great site for beginners of indoor garden. thanks! :D