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Green planthopper - Siphanta acuta

By N A Martin (2017, revised 2018)

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Click to collapse Classification Info





Siphanta acuta (Walker, 1851)

Click to collapse Common names Info

Green planthopper, Torpedo Bug, Large green plant-hopper

Click to collapse Synonyms Info

Poeciloptera acuta Walker, 1851

Poeciloptera cupido Walker, 1851

Cromna elegans Costa, 1864

Phalainesthes schauinslandi Kirkaldy, 1899

Click to collapse Biostatus and distribution Info

This adventive plant hopper from Australia was first reported in New Zealand by Kirkaldy in 1909. It is now found in the North Island and parts of the South Island. It occurs on its herbaceous, shrub and tree host plants in city gardens and parks as well as native ecosystems.

Conservation status: Widespread, a minor pest on some garden plants.

Click to collapse Life stages and annual cycle Info

Nymphs and egg masses can be found on plants all year. Adults are commonest in Summer and Autumn. Many details of the annual cycle, life stages and behaviour of the Green planthopper are given by Myers in his informative 1922 paper on this insect.

Adults have green triangular wings that are normally folded to form a steep ‘roof’. The head and body are also green. There are two pairs of wings, three pairs of legs and one pair of antennae. The compound eyes are on the side of the head. A rostrum that holds the feeding stylets projects from the lower side of the head. The tip of the abdomen of females has an ovipositor for laying eggs.

After mating the female lays a flat oval cluster of eggs on a plant, usually on a leaf. There are 90-110 eggs in a batch, called an egg- cushion by Myers. The egg batch is initially white, but turns black due to a fungus that grows on the on the empty egg cases. After the nymphs hatch from the eggs, they usually stay near the egg mass for a short while before dispersing. Though they usually stay in small groups. The young nymphs are white and have a pair of white waxy filaments on each side of the sixth visible abdominal segment and two longer tufts at the tip of the abdomen. These wax tails are usually held close to the plant surface. The area around where they are living becomes lightly coated with wax. Like the adults the nymphs have a rostrum with the stylets for feeding, three pairs of legs and a pair of antennae. Nymphs go from one stage to the next by moulting. During moulting, the skin on the dorsal side splits and the next stage pulls itself out of the old skin. The second and third nymphal instars (stages) are increasingly green, while the fourth is green with some reddish markings. The fifth instar is white with pink markings. Older nymphs have wing buds. All nymphs have a white wax tail, with the wax mainly in two bundles. The tail is usually held flat against the plant, but can be lifted up and down. A little wax may be produced by other parts of the body.

Walking and flying

The nymphs and adults have three pairs of legs and when disturbed can jump. It is reported that the large nymphs can jump up to 60 centimetres, which is why they are called Torpedo Bugs in the USA.

The adults have two pairs of wings that are held over their body when not used for flying.


Like other Hemiptera, the green planthopper has piercing and sucking mouth parts. The long stylets, special shaped rods, are held in the rostrum. When it wishes to feed, the bug moves the tip of the rostrum to a suitable part of the plant. The stylets are then gradually pushed into the plant. The stylets form two tubes, one through which saliva is injected into the plant and a second through which plants juices are sucked up into the insect. The insects feed on the phloem, on of a plants two systems for distribution nutrients. Excess liquid is secreted at intervals. Myers in his 1922 paper describes in detail the way the insects jerk their abdomen while excreting a bead of honeydew that emerges from between the tufts of wax filaments on their tail. After its emergence it is flicked away.

Click to collapse Recognition Info

The adult Green planthoppers are easy to distinguish from other insects by their bright green colour and shape of their wings that are held like a ‘steep roof’ and are sharply pointed at their tip. The most similar insect is the Grey planthopper, Anzora unicolor (Flatidae). It has a similar, though less angular shape and is blue-grey coloured.

The nymphs of the Green planthopper may be confused with those of the Grey plant hopper and the Passion vine hopper Scolypopa australis (Ricaniidae). Green planthopper nymphs have a pair of wax tails that are held close against the plant surface. There may be little wax on the plant around where they are living. Nymphs of the Grey planthopper produce a lot of wax from all over the body. The have long tails and ‘horns’ at the front. Nymphs of Passion vine hopper are red-brown with white markings. They also have a fluffy tail that is usually held upright.

Click to collapse Natural enemies Info

Two parasitoids and one predator are associated with the Green planthopper. No pathogens are known from the active stages or eggs.


The Australian wasp, Green planthopper egg parasitoid, Aphanomerus pusillus (Platygasteridae) has been in New Zealand since the 1930’s according to a 1930 paper by Ted Gourley. The parasite was deliberately released into the USA to help control the green planthopper, which they call the Torpedo Bug, because of the long distnce that the nymphs can jump.

Planthopper parasitoid, Dryinus koebelei (Dryinidae) also comes from Australia and also parasitises the Grey planthopper. The larva may be seen on the planthopper nymphs where it is attched under one of the wing buds. The fully grown wasp larva leaves the now dead nymph and spins a cocoon in which it pupates. The adult female is very distinctive, the male less so.


The only recorded predator of the planthopper is the Steelblue ladybird, another insect of Australian origin. Myers in his 1922 paper reports that the ladybird devoured the eggs-cushions when placed in contact with them.

It is likely that the Green planthoppers are fed upon by other predatory insects, spiders and birds.

Table: Natural enemies of Green planthopper, Siphanta acuta (Hemiptera: Flatidae), from Plant-SyNZ database (19 September 2017). The reliability index shows the quality of evidence for the host association (0-10, 10=high quality).
Scientific NameCommon NameClassificationEnemy TypeReliability IndexBiostatus
Aphanomerus pusillus Perkins, 1905 (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Platygasteridaeparasitoid10adventive
Dryinus koebelei (Perkins, 1905)Planthopper parasitoid (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Dryinidaeparasitoid10adventive
Halmus chalybeus (Boisduval, 1835)Steelblue ladybird (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator10adventive

Click to collapse Host plants Info

New Zealand host plants of the Green planthopper include native and adventive plants, including garden plants.

Feeding and plant damage

Like other Hemiptera, the green planthopper has piercing and sucking mouth parts. The long stylets, special shaped rods, are held in the rostrum. When it wishes to feed, the bug moves the tip of the rostrum to a suitable part of the plant. The stylets are then gradually pushed into the plant. The stylets form two tubes, one through which saliva is injected into the plant and a second through which plants juices are sucked up into the insect. The planthoppers feed on the plants phloem and secrete honeydew at intervals.

Table: Host plants of the Green planthopper, Siphanta acuta (Hemiptera: Flatidae) from Plant-SyNZ database (2 October 2017). The reliability score shows the quality of evidence for the host association (1-10, 10=high).
Common Name(s)Scientific NameFamilyReliability IndexBiostatus
New Zealand celery, Sea celery, Shore celery, Tūtae kōauApium prostratum Labill. ex Vent.Umbelliferae10indigenous, non-endemic
Cruel plant, Kapok vine, Moth plant, White bladder flowerAraujia horturum E.Fourn.Apocynaceae8naturalised
Renga lily, Rock lily, Māikaika, RengarengaArthropodium cirratum (G.Forst.) R.Br.Asparagaceae8endemic
Bridal veil creeper, SmilaxAsparagus asparagoides (L.) DruceAsparagaceae10naturalised
TaraireBeilschmiedia tarairi (A.Cunn.) Benth. & Hook.f. ex KirkLauraceae10endemic
Bushman's friend, Kōuaha, Pukapuka, Pukariao, Puke-rangiora, Rangiora, Raurākau, Raurēkau, Whārangi, Whārangi-tawhitoBrachyglottis repanda J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Compositae10endemic
New Zealand bitter cress, PanapanaCardamine debilis Banks ex DC.Cruciferae10endemic
Bitou bush, Boneseed, Higgin's curse, Jungle flower, Salt bushChrysanthemoides monilifera (L.) T. Norl. subsp. monilifera (L.) T. Norl.Compositae10naturalised
TaupataCoprosma repens A.Rich.Rubiaceae10endemic
Twiggy CoprosmaCoprosma rhamnoides A.Cunn.Rubiaceae10endemic
Tree tutu, Pūhou, Tāweku, Tūpākihi, TutuCoriaria arborea Linds.Coriariaceae10endemic
Karaka nut, Karaka, KōpīCorynocarpus laevigatus J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Corynocarpaceae10endemic
Hawthorn, Neapolitan medlar, White hawthornCrataegus monogyna Jacq.Rosaceae10naturalised
 Dysoxylum sp. MARCMeliaceae9cultivated
New Zealand mahogany, Kohe, Kohekohe, Koheriki, Kohepi (flowers), Kohepu (flowers), Māota (flowers)Dysoxylum spectabile (G.Forst.) Hook.f.Meliaceae10endemic
Eucalypt, Flowering gum, Gum, StringybarkEucalyptus sp.Myrtaceae7unknown
Fuchsia, Ladies' eardropsFuchsia sp.Onagraceae7unknown
New Zealand privet, Hangehange, Hengahenga, Pāhengahenga, Pāpā, Pāpāhenga, Pāpāuma, WhangewhangeGeniostoma ligustrifolium A.Cunn. var. ligustrifoliumLoganiaceae8endemic
Shrubby haloragis, ToatoaHaloragis erecta (Banks ex Murray) OkenHaloragaceae9endemic
Red hot poker, Torch lily, TritomaKniphofia sp.Asphodelaceae7unknown
Broadleaf privet, Tree privetLigustrum lucidum W.T.AitonOleaceae10naturalised
Chinese privet, Small-leaf privetLigustrum sinense Lour.Oleaceae10naturalised
Japanese honeysuckleLonicera japonica Thunb.Caprifoliaceae10naturalised
Macadamia, Macadamia nut, Queensland nutMacadamia sp.Proteaceae6naturalised
Puka, PukanuiMeryta sinclairii Hook. f.) Seem.Araliaceae10endemic
NgaioMyoporum laetum G.Forst.Scrophulariaceae8endemic
Red mapou, Red matipo, Māpau, Māpou, Mataira, Matipou, Takapou, Tāpau, TīpauMyrsine australis (A.Rich.) AllanPrimulaceae9endemic
New Zealand jasmine, Akakaikiore, Akakiore, Kaihua, Kaikū, Kaiwhiria, Poapoa, Tautauā, Tawhiwhi, Tūtae-kererūParsonsia heterophylla A. CunninghamApocynaceae10endemic
Banana passionfruitPassiflora sp. 'banana passion fruit'Passifloraceae7naturalised
Flax, Lowland flax, New Zealand flax, Swamp flax, Harakeke, Harareke, KōrariPhormium tenax J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Hemerocallidaceae10endemic
Pepper tree, Kawa, KawakawaPiper excelsum G.Forst.Piperaceae10endemic
Kaikaro, Karo, KīhihiPittosporum crassifolium Banks & Sol. ex A.Cunn.Pittosporaceae9endemic
Lemonwood, Kīhihi, TarataPittosporum eugenioides A.Cunn.Pittosporaceae10endemic
Totara, Lowland totara, Amoka, TōtaraPodocarpus totara G. Benn. ex D.DonPodocarpaceae9endemic
Coastal five finger, Houmāpara, Houpara, Houparapara, Kokotai, Oho, Parapara, WhauwhauPseudopanax lessonii (DC.) K. KochAraliaceae10endemic
Fireweed, PukateaSenecio glomeratus Poir.Compositae10indigenous, non-endemic
Fireweed, Shore groundsel, Variable groundselSenecio lautus G.Forst. ex Willd.Compositae10indigenous, non-endemic
Flannel leaf, Kerosene plant, Tobacco weed, Wild tobacco tree, Woolly nightshadeSolanum mauritianum Scop.Solanaceae8naturalised
Black nightshade, Blackberry nightshade, Garden huckleberry, Pōporo, Poroporo, Raupeti, RemuroaSolanum nigrum L.Solanaceae10naturalised
Small-flowered nightshade, Pōporo, Poroporo, Raupeti, RemuroaSolanum nodiflorum Jacq.Solanaceae9indigenous, non-endemic
Three Kings milk tree, Smith's milkwoodStreblus smithii (Cheeseman) CornerMoraceae10endemic
Bushy starwort, Sea asterSymphyotrichum subulatum (Michx.) G.L.NesomCompositae10naturalised
Wandering Jew, Wandering WillieTradescantia fluminensis Vell.Commelinaceae10naturalised
Purple top, South American vervain, Tall verbenaVerbena bonariensis L.Verbenaceae10naturalised
Hebe, KōkōmukaVeronica macrocarpa VahlPlantaginaceae10endemic
New Zealand oak, Kauere, PūririVitex lucens KirkLabiatae10endemic

Click to collapse Control Info

Green plant hoppers may be found on some garden plants and crops. If control is thought to be needed, commercial growers should contact their advisors and gardeners should contact a supplier of garden pesticides. If they are a problem in a garden, avoid growing very susceptible plants from where they can spread on to other plants.

Click to collapse Information sources Info

Lariviere M-C, Fletcher MJ, Larochelle A. 2010. Auchenorrhyncha (Insecta: Hemiptera): catalogue. Fauna of New Zealand. 63: 1-228.

Myers,J.G. 1922: Life-history of (Walk.), the large green plant-hopper. New Zealand Journal of Science and Technology: 5:256-263.

Valentine EW. 1967. A list of the hosts of entomophagous insects of New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Science. 10 (4): 1100-1210. This paper gives details of Gurley’s 1930 paper).

Click to collapse Acknowledgements Info

The New Zealand Plant & Food Research Institute Limited (Plant & Food Research) for permission to use photographs.

Click to collapse Other images Info

Click to collapse Update history Info

1 August 2018, NA Martin. Photo added of egg batch with parasitoid exit holes.

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