Pest Alert in WA: Controlling the Tomato Potato Psyllid

Mar 2017

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Western Australia is on high alert for the tomato potato psyllid since it has been attacking tomatoes, potatoes and related crops in Western Australian gardens.

The tomato/potato psyllid breeds mainly on plants in the Solanaceae (potato and tomato family), but can also attack some species of Convolvulaceae (kumara and bindweed family). Other host plants of the tomato/potato psyllid include Apple of Peru, capsicum, chilli, egg plant, kumara, poroporo, tamarillo and thornapple.

How do I recognise the tomato/potato psyllid?

The adult Tomato –Potato Psyllid is about the size of an adult aphid but looks like a tiny cicada under magnification . The female lays yellow eggs that are attached by stalks to plant leaves, usually to the leaf edges. Psyllid nymphs hatch from these eggs and after five moults become adults. The nymphs are flat scale-like insects which are mostly inactive but move when disturbed. Nymphs and adults feed by sucking plant juices, which is how they are thought to spread Liberibacter.

Nymphs and adults secrete plant sap as white granules called ‘psyllid sugars’ which can be seen on the leaves. In humid conditions and where there are large numbers of psyllids, black sooty mould fungi can grow on the sugars. Dense sooty mould on leaves may reduce photosynthesis, but this is rarely a problem on outdoor plants as the psyllid sugars are usually removed by wind and rain

How do I manage the tomato/potato psyllid?

  • Check the plants you purchase are free of psyllids and other pests.
  • If psyllids are present remove and bag infested leaves in sealed rubbish bags.
  • Encourage natural enemies such as some kinds of ladybirds and lacewings which will feed on psyllids.
  • White and silver reflective coverings are believed to reduce infestations.
  • Use an insecticide such as Richgro Beat-A-Bug Naturally Based Insect Spray now registered for the control of the Tomato Potato Psyllid.