Identifying the Glassy-winged Sharpshooter
The Glassy-winged Sharpshooter at ½ inch (13mm) long is relatively large for the Sharpshooter/Leafhopper family of insects. On the left is a good example of the sharpshooter's profile. You can see the distinct orange underside of the head where the proboscis or mouthpiece is. It uses this mouthpiece to pierce the shoots and branches to draw in the fluids and get nutrients and minerals from the plants. The wings of the sharpshooter are translucent brown with red veins, if you want to see a good picture of the wings with the prominent red veins click here. The top of the insect is dark brown while the underside is white.
Nymphs are the immature insects that will later on become adults. The sharpshooter's nymphs, like the one to the left, are greenish grey in color and quite similar in shape to the adults. The nymphs do not have wings and are generally smaller than the adults, ranging in size from .07 inches (2 mm) to nearly ½ inch (13mm) long. The nymphs have very distinct red eyes that are visible when they are alive, but this fades when they die. The nymphs are much more active than the adults and are more likely to jump away when approached.
The Sharpshooter lays its eggs inside of the underside of leaves. The Sharpshooter will lay its eggs on almost any plant including cactus. To the left is a good example of a Sharpshooter egg mass. The egg masses are usually composed of 10 - 20 eggs, but they can lay more or as few as 1. Most of the egg masses have a waxy coating around the eggs for protection. The eggs are lined up making a rectangular pattern of eggs on the leaf. The eggs are all in separate chambers so you can see the walls between each egg making the egg mass look distinct from egg masses that other insects can lay in leaves. On the top of the leaf there is usually a little discoloration of the leaf. To find the eggs it is easiest to get under the tree or shrub and look up at the leaf with sunlight behind it. The egg blocks out some of the sunlight and you can see the disctinct shape of the egg thrugh the leaf.
When the Nymphs hatch they split the leaf open on one side. In time the area where the eggs were will start to turn brown leaving an "Egg Scar" which can stay until the leaf falls from the plant. Another way the egg mass can leave an egg scar is after parasitization. To the left is a picture of an egg scar left after the egg mass was parasitized. These scars are good tools to find where the Sharpshooters have been. At times the scars have been brought in with the plants in new landscaping so as to give the appearance of a previous infestation. Again with egg scars you can find them in the same way as the fresh egg masses by looking at them through sunlight. The egg scars tend to stand out more than the fresh eggs.
The Sharpshooter can consume about 300 times its own weight in fluids from the plants that it feeds upon and can be found in such high numbers that they cause what is called Sharpshooter Rain. When a large number of Sharpshooters are in a tree they constantly draw fluids out of the branches and excrete them out the other end giving the appearance of rain coming off the tree. This excreta also causes the whitewashed appearance on leaves, fruit and even on the sidewalk under it. You can see a good picture of this whitewash by clicking here. There are other ways to create this whitewashed appearance, mineral deposits from water is one common way. White spots on plants are not always a sign that Sharpshooters are present, but if you see it, closer inspection may reveal the Sharpshooter hiding on the stems or branches of the plant.
Some of the Sharpshooter's favorite plants to feed on are bougainvillea, camellia, citrus, crape myrtle, grapevines, eucalyptus, privet and oleander. The Sharpshooter will feed on almost any plant available and will not limit itself to this list or the latest host list by CDFA. You can close CDFA's window to return to this page when you are finished looking at the host list.
If you find an insect fitting these descriptions or are still unsure if the insect you have is a Glassy-winged Sharpshooter please bring it in to your local Department of Agriculture.
In Contra Costa County the phone number is
If you live near Concord and can drop off a sample we are located at
2366-A Stanwell Circle
Concord, CA 94520-4807
Or if you are near Knightsen, the number is (925) 427-8610, and the field office is located at
3020 Second Street
Knightsen, CA 94548
(corner of Second and Delta Road)
Anywhere else in California you can call the California Department of Food and Agriculture hotline at