Potato Leaf Hoppers and Annonas: Leaf Curling Problems Due to the Leafhopper

As a gardener, there’s nothing more disheartening than seeing your precious Annona fruit trees suffer.

One such issue that can affect Annona plants is the dreaded leaf curling, which is often caused by the pesky potato leaf hopper. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of potato leaf hoppers and Annonaceae trees, exploring how these insects can wreak havoc on your Annonas and, most importantly, how to prevent and control infestations. So, let’s hop to it!

Products To Help Control Potato Leaf Hoppers

Understanding Potato Leaf Hoppers


Potato leaf hoppers, or Empoasca fabae, are small, green, wedge-shaped insects that measure about 1/8-inch long. 

They have piercing-sucking mouthparts, which they use to feed on the sap of plants, and wings that allow them to fly from one plant to another.



These insects are highly mobile and can quickly move between plants in search of their next meal. They’re also known to jump, hence their name. 

When disturbed, they will often move to the opposite side of the Annona leaf or plant, making them difficult to spot as they blend in with sugar apple, atemoya, soursop, and custard apple leaves.

Life Cycle

Potato leaf hoppers have an interesting life cycle. Adult females lay eggs inside the veins of plant leaves, where they remain hidden from predators. 

The eggs hatch into nymphs, which molt several times before becoming winged adults. In warmer climates, the insects can reproduce year-round, leading to multiple generations per season.

Potato Leaf Hopper Damage On Sugar Apple Atemoya Rollinia Annonaceae

Annona Fruit Trees: A Quick Overview

Annonaceae Varieties

Annonas are a group of tropical and subtropical fruit trees belonging to the Annonaceae family. 

Some popular Annona varieties include the sugar apple (Annona squamosa), soursop (Annona muricata), and cherimoya (Annona cherimola), which are all susceptible to the potato leaf hopper.

These fruits are known for their delicious, custard-like texture and unique flavors and are grown widely throughout South Florida.

Growing Conditions

Annonas require specific growing conditions to thrive, which include well-draining soil, ample sunlight, and high humidity. They also need protection from frost, as they are susceptible to cold damage.

Nutritional Benefits

Annona fruits are packed with nutrients, including vitamins C and B, potassium, magnesium, and fiber. They also contain antioxidants that may help support a healthy immune system.

Potato Leaf Hoppers and Annonas: A Damaging Combination

Leaf Curling in Annonas

When potato leaf hoppers feed on Annona plants, they inject toxic saliva into the leaf tissue.

This leads to a condition called “hopper burn,” which causes the leaves to curl, yellow, and eventually die. This is particularly concerning for Annona growers, as it can compromise the overall health and productivity of the plant.


Potato leaf hoppers in Florida have been known to attack the following Annonaceae fruit trees

  • Sugar apple (Annona squamosa)
  • Atemoya (Annona atemoya)
  • Cherimoya (Annona cherimola)
  • Soursop (Annona muricata)
  • Custard apple (Annona reticulata)
  • Rollinia (Rollinia deliciosa)
  • Ilama (Annona diversifolia)
  • Cherilata (Annona reticulata x Annona cherimola)

Identifying Potato Leaf Hopper Damage

To identify potato leaf hopper damage on Annonas, look for the following signs:

  1. Curled, cupped, or distorted leaves
  2. Yellowing or browning of leaf margins
  3. Stunted plant growth
  4. Premature leaf drop
  5. Reduced fruit production
Potato leaf hopper burns on a young soursop (Anona muricata) tree.

If you notice these symptoms on your Annona plants, it’s essential to act quickly to minimize the damage and protect your precious fruit trees.

Long-term Effects on Annonas

Left unchecked, potato leaf hopper infestations can have severe consequences for your Annona plants. Chronic hopperburn can lead to stunted growth, reduced fruit production, and even plant death. 

Moreover, weakened plants are more susceptible to other pests and diseases, which can further compound the problem.

Controlling and Preventing Potato Leaf Hopper Infestations

Cultural Control Methods

Cultural control methods are an essential first line of defense against potato leaf hoppers. These include:

  1. Regularly inspecting your Annona plants for signs of infestation
  2. Spray Pyganic or Advise Four
  3. Removing any weeds or debris or uncared-for Annonas that may serve as a breeding ground for leaf hoppers
  4. Watering your plants consistently to reduce plant stress
  5. Pruning any damaged or infested branches to limit the spread of the pests

Biological Control Methods

Introducing natural predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings, can help keep potato leaf hopper populations in check. 

These beneficial insects feed on leaf hoppers and their eggs, providing a natural form of pest control.

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Chemical Control Methods

In cases of severe infestations, chemical control methods may be necessary. However, it’s crucial to use insecticides responsibly and selectively, targeting only the affected plants and minimizing harm to beneficial insects. 

Always follow label instructions and consider consulting an expert if you’re unsure about the best approach.

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  • OMRI listed; meets National Organic Program (NOP) requirements
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Potato leaf hoppers significantly threaten Annona plants, causing leaf curling and potentially severe long-term damage. 

By understanding these pests and implementing a combination of cultural, biological, and chemical control methods, you can protect your Annona plants and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can potato leaf hoppers infest other plants besides Annonas?

Yes, potato leaf hoppers can infest a wide range of plants, including potatoes, beans, alfalfa, and other fruit trees.

  1. How can I tell if my Annona plant has a potato leaf hopper infestation?

Look for symptoms such as curled, yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and reduced fruit production.

  1. Do natural predators of potato leaf hoppers pose any risk to my Annona plants?

Beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings are generally harmless to your plants and can help control leaf hopper populations.

  1. Are there any organic insecticides that can help control potato leaf hoppers?

Neem oil, pyrethrum, and insecticidal soap can be effective organic options for managing leaf hopper infestations. Always follow label instructions and test on a small area before applying to your entire plant.

  1. How can I prevent potato leaf hopper infestations in the future?

Regular inspections, good cultural practices, and the introduction of natural predators can help prevent and control potato leaf hopper infestations.

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