Seasonal Almanac

Start of autumn: white dew decends (1 of 5)

February 10th, 2009

Start of autumn 6 of 15I was examining the passionfruit vines that are growing on the fence in the backyard and noticed these tiny insects on the underside of the leaves. They are black, grey, and transparent. On closer examination, there is a lot of them on every plant. They don’t move much.

An online search revealed that they are Passion vine hoppers (Scolypopa australis). They feed on passionfruit and kiwifruit vine leaves, sucking on the sap. They can also infest pumpkin, citrus, beans, wisteria, jasmine, as well as ferns and brackens (and many others – interestingly lantana as well). The insects excrete a honeydew that can encourage sooty mould growth. When feeding on shrub tutu (Coriaria arborea) the hoppers produce a poisonous byproduct. If or when bees collect this poisonous honeydew, poisonous honey is produced (as happened in New Zealand).

Passion vine hoppers breed in early winter, emerge as nymphs in late Spring and become adults in the summer months and feed until the next breeding cycle. Their presence generally leads to infestation. They are notoriously difficult to get rid of.

It seems timely to discover these pesty insects as Redmond was just commenting on how the vines flower but do not fruit. Since the hoppers extract nutrients from the plants, this can cause fruit drop. Only one effective way of controlling them has been found and luckily it’s natural: Neem tree oil.

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