Jaco Le Roux and Daniel Rubinoff

Macrosteles sp.

Dr. Jaco Le Roux hopes to establish the number and identity of the leafhopper species introduced to Hawaii so he can assess the threat that it poses to our local flora and fauna. This research effort includes molecular systematics and phylogeography of invasive leafhoppers and those from putative source regions. These data could potentially also assist in identifying native range regions where productive biological control agents are likely to be found, should this prove a viable control option.

“Macrosteles”, or 'aster leafhoppers' represent a newly introduced insect pest that has invaded O'ahu watercress crops. They transmit an aster yellow pythoplasma that has cost the watercress industry hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage due to crop losses. Of even greater concern is the possibility that the leafhoppers in Hawai'i will spread and negatively impact other agricultural crops. Understanding the invasion history, e.g. the country of origin, the route of introduction, etc., is the first step in initiating efforts to control or eradicate any invasive species. The taxonomy of the genus Macrosteles is problematic due to morphological conservatism across different species, making identification cumbersome at best.