Lost Tribe of Leafhoppers Found, May Lead to
By Hank Becker
October 28, 1999
A newly discovered "lost
tribe" of insects may give scientists more clues to better predict crop
losses caused by leafhoppers.
Agricultural Research Service
entomologist Stuart H. McKamey has described a new genus and species of the
leafhopper tribe Megophthalmini from the Andes mountains of Tachira, Venezuela.
It's 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.
Based at the ARS Systematic
Entomology Laboratory in Washington, D.C., McKamey identifies and
classifies new species and publishes identification aids. He also provides
identification services for regulatory agencies. At U.S. ports of entry, this
helps USDA's Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service intercept invasive species--those not indigenous to the
Of the 20,000 known species of leafhoppers, more than 150 species in more
than 65 genera transmit crop diseases. Many leafhoppers attack U.S. crops such
as corn, rice, citrus, peach, tomato, potato and sugarbeet. Some 23 species
transmit a single disease: Pierce's disease of grape.
The lost tribe of South American Megophthalmini leafhoppers--previously
known in North America, Africa and Europe--has novel traits that point to
relationships to other leafhopper subfamilies, according to McKamey.
The new species he identified is not a crop pest, but some of its 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
Farmers' 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.
ARS is USDA's chief research agency.
Scientific contact: Stuart H. McKamey, ARS Systematic Entomology
Laboratory, Washington, D.C., phone (202) 382-1779, fax (202) 786-9422,