photo of gum lerp psyllid on eucalyptus leaves with three square images of other psyllid infested plants

The Ultimate Guide to Psyllids

With the warm weather months upon us, it’s easy to fall in love with the smells and sights of blooming flowers and new plant growth, but you’re not the only one! After all, tiny, sap-sucking insects are looking for a fresh meal, and what better place to start than the garden!

Whether you think you’ve got a psyllid problem on your hands, or simply want to educate yourself on the tricky ways of the psyllid before an infestation can occur, we’ve got details you need to know, from what they are, where they like to hang out, and how you can stop them from making a mockery of your garden. Let’s dig in!

What are Psyllids?

Also known as “jumping plant lice,” psyllids are tiny, sap-sucking insects that feast on your plants for nutrients. Psyllids can either be monophagous, which means they feast on one species of plant, or oligophagous, which means they feed on two or more closely related plants.

Alongside aphids, coccids, and whiteflies, psyllids are part of the monophyletic group Sternorrhyncha. It takes only three weeks for a psyllid to grow from egg to adult, with a total lifespan of about two months.

Regardless of their short life, adult psyllids can lay eggs several times (around 800 at once!) and only under two conditions. Condition one, psyllids only lay eggs in warm weather, making them a common pest in spring and summer. Condition two, psyllids will not lay eggs if a plant does not have any new growth, which means, you’ve got to be on guard to prevent them from destroying your beautiful plants!

Are There Different Species of Psyllids?

So far, more than 100 psyllid species have been discovered. This isn’t surprising though, considering entomologists believe they may have been present in the Late Cretaceous and Permian periods dating back 200 million years. Once flowering plants evolved and diversified, so did psyllids.

Today, gardeners and greenhouse-goers are more familiar with certain species of psyllids, including asian citrus psyllids, who like to feast on citrus plants, and boxwood psyllids, who fancy themselves the sap from boxwood trees and shrubs. Other common psyllid species include potato or tomato psyllids, which as you can guess, feast on potatoes and tomatoes.

Identifying Psyllids at Every Life Stage

Psyllids are known to closely resemble the Cicada insect, with psyllid eggs resembling tiny footballs, and nymphs resembling flat, scale-like, stretched-ovals. Of the psyllid species observed, the average size ranges from 1/10 to 1/5 inches long. As adults, psyllid species tend to differ in color, detailed below:

Asian Citrus Psyllid - Brown-edged wings with clear areas & thorn-like appearance

Boxwood Psyllid - Clear wings and light green bodies

Potato/Tomato Psyllid - Clear wings and dark gray/black bodies with prominent white markings on the thorax

Signs of an Asian Citrus Psyllid Infestation

The asian citrus psyllid is known to cause serious damage to citrus plants and their relatives, leaving behind:

  • Burned tips
  • Twisted leaves
  • Yellow shoots caused by toxic saliva produced during feeding
  • Lopsided, bitter or hard fruit/stunted growth
  • Asymmetrical blotchy mottling of leaves

Psyllids are also carriers of the bacterium that causes Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, also known as citrus greening disease, Once diseased, your citrus tree cannot be saved, which makes stopping these pests before they infect your citrus trees so important!

Signs of a Boxwood Psyllid Infestation

If your boxwood plant has cupping leaves, you could have a psyllid problem. As nymphs, boxwood psyllids leave a waxy filament on the boxwood leaves. Luckily, the damage caused by psyllids does not generally affect the health of your plants, but can certainly be an unpleasant sight, leaving you to prune out or treat your plants with a Garden Safe Insecticide.

Signs of a Potato/Tomato Psyllid Infestation

Feeding on the underside of leaves, potato/tomato psyllids find comfort on the low and shady parts of your plants, leaving distinctive wax-covered pellets known as psyllid sugar as they go.

When feeding, this psyllid species produce toxic saliva, causing psyllid yellows, leading to changes in color for potatoes and tomatoes. Other signs that indicate a possible tomato/potato psyllid infestation are poor fruit quality and reduced flavor.

Psyllids Treatment

If you believe you have a psyllid infestation, you’ll be relieved to know that taking care of them is easier than you’d think. In fact, there are a few natural ways to both prevent the onset or rid your garden of these maniacal monophages!

Call in the Beneficial Bugs!

Did you know that there are certain bugs that like to make a meal out of insects like psyllids? It’s true! Attracting the Good Bugs for Organic Pest Control is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to protect your plants, all while giving the good bugs a warm welcome with plenty of food. These beneficial bugs include ladybugs, lacewings, lady beetles, spiders, and praying mantis, to name a few.

Use a Garden Safe Psyllid Control Spray

Need a fast-acting psyllid treatment sans the yucky chemicals? The ORGANOCIDE® BEE SAFE Insect Killer can help! Using the power of dense natural oils, this organic pest control spray is the only insect killer proven safe for bees. You’ll love that it works on contact to rid your garden of pesky psyllids without harming your garden’s ecosystem and without harming beneficial insects.

Another incredible garden-safe psyllid control spray is the ORGANOCIDE® BEE SAFE 3-in-1 Organic Garden Spray,  a 3-in-1 fungicide, miticide, and insecticide created to banish psyllids and soft-bodied insects at all life stages from your garden and protect your plants from future psyllid damage, also without harming beneficial insects..

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At Organic Labs, we’re committed to providing you with organic pest control solutions and helpful videos to help your garden thrive. Visit us on Facebook and Instagram today to see how others are loving our environmentally-friendly garden products in their mission to Protect the Bees with Organic Pesticides

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