When most gardeners think of common pests, they usually think of aphids, scales, snails, and slugs. You may not have often heard people talking about psyllids. The truth is, even if you have been gardening for a short time, you have probably seen psyllids in your garden, even if you have not paid attention to them.
In small numbers, they do not do much damage. In large numbers, they will destroy your garden. This article will look at their life cycle, the harm they cause and methods of prevention. Ready to dive in?
- 1 What are psyllids?
- 2 Life cycle of psyllids
- 3 Characteristics of this pest in your garden
- 4 Types of psyllids and the plants they love
- 5 Control this common pest
What are psyllids?
Psyllids (Siloidea Spp.) Is also known as jumping plant lice. Unlike pests such as aphids, which can attack a wide range of plants, they require specific hosts.
This means that they only attack and feed on a plant type and its close relatives, not on anything and everything. If the food is short, they can turn into a different plant of the same species, but you will never see tomato psyllids on the lemon tree.
Psyllids are abundant with over 100 different types. They feed on the juice, pierce the surface of the plants, then excrete honey. It is a sticky substance that loves ants and wasps, and also makes soot molds.
This is useless because not only is your plant losing power through feeding, they now also have to fight with the mold of soot.
In other words, they may be small, but you do not want to let these pests flourish in your garden.
Life cycle of psyllids
Although all psyllid species differ in some ways, they basically undergo a similar process throughout their life cycle. Within a few days of emergence, they mate and lay 500 eggs in 21 to 40 days. In some areas, they will be laying up to 800.
Eggs are small, but you can usually see them with the naked eye. They range in color from yellow to white or clear. They are attached to the plant by small threads. Eggs can be placed in bunches anywhere on the plant but are often on the edges of the leaves where they are easily seen.
The newly formed psyllids go through five stages in about 12 to 21 days before becoming a winged adult. The number reaches its peak in the spring when the host plants are at their highest and the weather is warm.
Adults are brown or green or a mixture of both, and have white or yellow markings. Winged adults resemble small cicadas or large aphids. The nymphs look like a little scale.
Most varieties will have five generations during the season, if not more. At an average temperature of 65ºF, the lifespan of a psyllid is about 35 days. During that time, they consume the juices in your plants.
The psyllids want the sweet, viscous juice running through the stalks, leaves, and branches. They access it by placing a stylelet in the soft part of the plant and sucking it. The problem becomes more acute when the transition reaches a large number.
Emission is part of the eating cycle. Psyllids emit honey, which is attractive to ants and wasps because of how sweet it is.
Some species also emit a waxy substance called pellets, strands, or lerps. These are honey droplets that have crystallized.
In the colder months, activity and damage are minimal. Use this time to prepare for the next season of cleaning, weeding, and psyllids.
Characteristics of this pest in your garden
Although any insect infection can cause problems in your garden, there are some signs that specifically indicate psyllids.
- Sudden and severe withering of plants. If you notice sudden death, but do not see a reason, check the psyllids and their eggs carefully. When you come near they will jump and scatter.
- Honey on plants. Sticky plants that look dirty are usually covered with honey. It is excreted by psyllids (as well as aphids) and causes soot molds. Honeydew also attracts ants and wasps to the plant.
- Psyllid yellow. The leaves of the plant become yellow or speckled and new sprouts become yellow.
- power loss. Plants that are subject to an infection often lose their energy to grow and produce. This is because psyllids extract large amounts of sap.
- Sooty mold. This is a major issue with sap plants. Read our article on soot mold to know how to identify it and how to treat it.
Types of psyllids and the plants they love
There are many psyllid species. Here are the ones you will see the most in your garden.
Tomato and Potato psyllids
Tomatoes and potatoes are very common plants for this insect. Nearly all of the gardens will have occasional visits to psyllids, but especially on tomatoes and potatoes.
Psyllids reduces the potency of potato plants and yields low and poor quality. Even taste can be affected. Potatoes from infected plants often produce soil-flavored tubers.
On tomato plants, yields are negatively affected, and many plants stop trying to make tomatoes because their energy is sucked out.
This species also targets:
- Sweet potato
As the name suggests, this species lives on and consumes olive trees. Olive psyllids cause premature loss of leaves and flowers. This in turn affects the yield. When there are a large number of insects on an olive tree, you will often find that your crop will not be good.
believe me; I have experienced olive psyllids. In normal years, my olive tree bears fruit in abundance. One year I noticed that two trees had suddenly fallen in large quantities of leaves and flowers. I discovered this insect – and many of them.
Needless to say that those two trees did not produce any olives that year and it actually took two seasons to recover.
This species is originally from Asia but is now endemic in many parts of the United States and Mexico. Its presence has been particularly felt in Florida. The adult is tan colored with speckled wings and body. The citrus psyllid keeps its lower part at a very specific 45º angle.
Citrus psyllid causes a nasty disease called green disease (huanglongbing). Abundant feeding by this psyllid damages citrus, causing the leaves to turn as they mature.
When psyllids and nymphs feed on a tree, they can infect it with bacteria that then migrate to other citrus trees when they move between plants. This bacterium can kill a citrus tree in just a few seasons.
Unfortunately, citrus psyllids feed on many citrus varieties, including:
- Curry leaf
- Lemon Berry
Pear psyllids are similar to citrus psyllids, in that they cause massive damage to the tree over a long period of time. Like all psyllids, they inject a toxin while feeding on plants. Due to this, the tree becomes black in the affected areas. Pear fruit is also affected by burning.
Control this common pest
There are many ways to control psyllids, but I think the best way is to keep them out of the gardens by activating them.
- Remove weeds and debris. Psyllids overwinter in weeds, so make sure you remove them from plants, especially trees.
- Use neem oil. The regular use of neem oil makes the sap unsuitable for psyllids and any other juice-sucking and leaf-munching pests.
- Pesticide Soap. This is a good option when you notice the presence of psyllids and want a knock-down effect.
Do not try to take out the psyllids as they are hyper-mobile. They will simply move to another branch that you are not cutting, and when you dispose of infected branches you will spread the pests as you walk through your garden or orchard.
Introduce natural predators
This is by far my favorite method of control. This is perfect for several reasons. First of all, you are letting nature do its work, and secondly, this should prevent any construction of psyllid numbers as hunters are already present. they include:
- Lacewing larvae
- Parasitic wasp
- Pirate insects
You can also use psyllid-specific nets. See your local plant nursery for advice on these. I generally will not use them until I see insects in my food garden or garden.
You can reduce the likelihood of being affected by psyllids by only offering plants purchased from a reputable seller.
Psyllids are not the death toll for your garden, but you should get to the top of the numbers as soon as you see them.
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