A newly discovered "lost tribe" of insects may give scientists more clues to better predict crop losses caused by leafhoppers.
ARS Entomologist Stuart H. McKamey discovered the new genus and species of the leafhopper tribe Megophthalmini from the Andes mountains of Tachira, Venezuela. It is the first record of this tribe to be found in the New World south of Mexico. Knowing an insect's identity is the first step in controlling it.
McKamey identifies and classifies new species and publishes identification aids. These are given to regulatory agencies. At ports of entry this helps APHIS intercept invasive species—those not indigenous to the U.S.
Of the 20,000 known species of leafhoppers, more than 150 in more than 65 genera transmit crop diseases. Many leafhoppers attack crops such as potatoes and sugarbeets. Some 23 species transmit a single disease.
The new species is not a crop pest, but some of the relatives are. Better understanding the familial relationships can lead to more accurate predictions of leafhoppers' pest potential. This task has been hampered by major gaps in knowledge of various leafhopper groups including the Megophthalmini.
Growers' efforts to control leafhoppers have been hampered by the insects' seasonal migration—often from non-crop plants that harbor crop diseases. The extent of this disease reservoir is not well known, because too little is known about the leafhoppers' plant preferences.