Halticus bractatus (Say): Garden Fleahopper

Garden Fleahopper by Charles Olsen, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org
California Pest Rating for
Halticus bractatus (Say): Garden Fleahopper
Hemiptera: Miridae
Pest Rating:  A 

Initiating Event:

Halticus bractatus was recently intercepted by one of CDFA’s border stations on outdoor plants from Florida.  Although this insect is included on some old pest lists with a “C” rating, all PDRs for the species to date have been assigned a temporary rating of “Q”.  A pest rating proposal is required to assign a permanent pest rating.

History & Status:

Background:  Halticus bractatus is a polyphagous pest that feeds on a variety of crops including citrus1.  It prefers to feed on hosts in the family Fabaceae including alfalfa, beans, peas, and clovers but will readily feed on many other plants including barley, beets, cabbage, celery, corn, cotton, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, oats, pepper, potato, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, tomato,  tobacco, and wheat1,2.  It also feeds on many weeds and occasionally other insects2.  Adult females insert eggs into the stems of vegetation2.  Nymphs and adults suck juices from the stems and surfaces of leaves2.  Feeding causes whitish or yellow speckling on the foliage, stunts plant growth, and may cause the death of seedlings2. Nymphs and adults deposit black fecal material that reduces the marketability of vegetables2Halticus bractatus may be transported long distances when infested plants or fresh plant parts are moved.

Worldwide Distribution: Halticus bractatus is widespread in the eastern United States and Canada as far west as the Rocky Mountains1,2.  It is found throughout Central and South America1,2.  It is also present in Hawaii.

Official Control: Halticus bractatus is listed as a harmful organism by Guatemala, Mexico, Japan, and the Republic of Korea3.

California Distribution Halticus bractatus has never been found in the environment of California.

California Interceptions:  Halticus bractatus has been intercepted twice by CDFA on outdoor plants from Florida and Ocimum sp. from Hawaii.  Unidentified species of Halticus have also been intercepted twice on plant cuttings and herbs from Hawaii.

The risk Halticus bractatus (garden fleahopper) would pose to California is evaluated below.

Consequences of Introduction: 

1) Climate/Host Interaction: Halticus bractatus is widespread east of the Rockies from Canada to Argentina. It is likely capable of establishing a widespread distribution in California and receives a High (3) in this category.

Evaluate if the pest would have suitable hosts and climate to establish in California.  Score:

Low (1) Not likely to establish in California; or likely to establish in very limited areas.

Medium (2) may be able to establish in a larger but limited part of California.

High (3) likely to establish a widespread distribution in California.

2) Known Pest Host Range: Halticus bractatus is highly polyphagous and receives a High (3) in this category.

Evaluate the host range of the pest. Score:

Low (1) has a very limited host range.

Medium (2) has a moderate host range.

High (3) has a wide host range.

3) Pest Dispersal Potential: Halticus bractatus has a high reproductive rate.  Under favorable conditions it can complete a generation in 30 days and each female produces 80-100 eggs.  Despite its polyphagous nature and widespread distribution in the eastern United States it has only been intercepted by CDFA a few times.  This indicates it may not move often in commerce.  Halticus bractatus receives a Medium (2) in this category.

Evaluate the natural and artificial dispersal potential of the pest. Score:

Low (1) does not have high reproductive or dispersal potential.

Medium (2) has either high reproductive or dispersal potential.

High (3) has both high reproduction and dispersal potential.

4) Economic Impact: Halticus bractatus is not typically a pest of commercial agriculture because it is controlled by insecticides used against more damaging pests2.  If it were to establish in California it is not expected to lower crop yields.  It may reduce the value of nursery stock and fresh vegetables by disfiguring these commodities.  It is also listed as a harmful organism by several of California’s trading partners and therefore has the potential to disrupt markets.  It is not expected to change cultural practices, vector other organisms, injure animals, or interfere with water supplies.  Halticus bractatus receives a Medium (2) in this category.

Evaluate the economic impact of the pest to California using the criteria below. Score:

A. The pest could lower crop yield.

B. The pest could lower crop value (includes increasing crop production costs).

C. The pest could trigger the loss of markets (includes quarantines).

D. The pest could negatively change normal cultural practices.

E. The pest can vector, or is vectored, by another pestiferous organism.

F. The organism is injurious or poisonous to agriculturally important animals.

G. The organism can interfere with the delivery or supply of water for agricultural uses.

Low (1) causes 0 or 1 of these impacts.

Medium (2) causes 2 of these impacts.

High (3) causes 3 or more of these impacts.

5) Environmental Impact: If Halticus bractatus were to establish in California it is not likely to lower biodiversity, disrupt natural communities, or change ecosystem processes.  It may feed on threatened and endangered species such as showy indian clover (Trifolium amoenum), Pacific grove clover (Trifolium polyodon), and Monterey clover (Trifolium trichocalyx).  It is not likely to disrupt critical habitats.  It is not expected to trigger new treatment programs in commercial agriculture.  However, in Florida it is a common early season pest in home gardens.  Home/urban gardening may be significantly impacted by this pest and it may trigger new treatment programs in this environment.  Halticus bractatus receives a High (3) in this category.

Evaluate the environmental impact of the pest on California using the criteria below.

A. The pest could have a significant environmental impact such as lowering biodiversity, disrupting natural communities, or changing ecosystem processes.

B. The pest could directly affect threatened or endangered species.

C. The pest could impact threatened or endangered species by disrupting critical habitats.

D. The pest could trigger additional official or private treatment programs.

E. The pest significantly impacts cultural practices, home/urban gardening or ornamental plantings.

Score the pest for Environmental Impact. Score:

Low (1) causes none of the above to occur.

Medium (2) causes one of the above to occur.

High (3) causes two or more of the above to occur.

Consequences of Introduction to California for Halticus bractatus (Garden Leafhopper):  High (13)

Add up the total score and include it here.

Low = 5-8 points

Medium = 9-12 points

High = 13-15 points

6) Post Entry Distribution and Survey Information: Halticus bractatus has never been found in California and receives a Not established (0) in this category.

Evaluate the known distribution in California. Only official records identified by a taxonomic expert and supported by voucher specimens deposited in natural history collections should be considered. Pest incursions that have been eradicated, are under eradication, or have been delimited with no further detections should not be included.

Not established (0) Pest never detected in California, or known only from incursions.

Low (-1) Pest has a localized distribution in California, or is established in one suitable climate/host area (region).

Medium (-2) Pest is widespread in California but not fully established in the endangered area, or pest established in two contiguous suitable climate/host areas.

High (-3) Pest has fully established in the endangered area, or pest is reported in more than two contiguous or non-contiguous suitable climate/host areas.

Final Score

The final score is the consequences of introduction score minus the post entry distribution and survey information score: High (13)


In the eastern United States Halticus bractatus is attacked by many other organisms including egg and nymph parasitoids, predatory mites, and nematodes2.  It is possible that the bug could be more damaging in California in the absence of these natural enemies.

Conclusion and Rating Justification:

Halticus bractatus has not been found in California and it is likely to have significant impacts if it were to establish in the state.  An “A”-rating is justified.


1 Henry, Thomas J. 1983. The Garden Fleahopper Genus Halticus (Hemiptera: Miridae): Resurrection of an Old Name and Key to Species of the Western Hemisphere. Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 85(3):607-611. https://research.amnh.org/pbi/library/0332.pdf

2 Capinera, John L. 2014. Common name: garden fleahopper. University of Florida Featured Creatures. http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/veg/leaf/fleahopper.htm

3 USDA Phytosanitary Certificate Issuance & Tracking System (PCIT) Phytosanitary Export Database (PExD).  https://pcit.aphis.usda.gov/pcit/

Responsible Party:

Jason Leathers, 1220 N Street, Sacramento, CA, 95814, (916) 654-1211, plant.health[@]cdfa.ca.gov.

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Pest Rating:  A 

Posted by ls