What Is the White Fluffy Stuff on My Shrubs?

— Written By

I get lots of gardening questions from visitors when I am working in my pollinator garden at Chatham Mills. Several people have asked me what is the white fluffy stuff they are seeing on the stems of shrubs. I have also seen quite a bit of this “problem” at the pollinator garden. At first I thought they were mealybugs but upon closer inspection I discovered they were nymphs of the flatid planthopper.

Flatid planthoppers are common in North Carolina and feed on a wide variety of trees, shrubs, vines, and herbaceous ornamentals. Adult planthoppers insert their eggs into the bark, and then the nymphs feed on plant sap with their their piercing, sucking mouthparts. As they feed they secrete a protective white waxy substance that covers their body and the surrounding stem. This fluffy white substance may look unsightly but does not harm plants. Nymphs can jump 12-18″ which is why they are called planthoppers.

Flatid planthoppers are not normally numerous enough to cause serious damage to plants. I occasionally will wash them off with the hose to disrupt their feeding.

I checked with our Chatham County horticulture agent Charlotte Glen for her thoughts on these insect pests. She agreed that they rarely cause damage and do not warrant treatment. Charlotte added that since they only have one generation per year they will soon be gone and that we should “enjoy their fleeting presence as a sign of the peak of summer”.

For more information:

Planthoppers – North Carolina State University

Nymphs of the flatid planthopper on eastern ninebark shrub.

Nymphs of the flatid planthopper on eastern ninebark shrub.

Nymphs of the flatid planthopper on eastern ninebark shrub.

Nymphs of the flatid planthopper on eastern ninebark shrub.

Nymphs of the flatid planthopper on eastern ninebark shrub.

Nymphs of the flatid planthopper on eastern ninebark shrub.

Nymphs of the flatid planthopper on eastern ninebark shrub.

Nymphs of the flatid planthopper on eastern ninebark shrub.

Adult flatid planthopper on eastern ninebark shrub.

Adult flatid planthopper on eastern ninebark shrub. The adults are actually dark-colored but are covered in a white, waxy bloom.

Adult flatid planthopper on eastern ninebark shrub.

Adult flatid planthopper on eastern ninebark shrub.

Written By

Photo of Debbie Roos, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionDebbie RoosExtension Agent, Agriculture - Sustainable / Organic Production (919) 542-8244 debbie_roos@ncsu.eduChatham County, North Carolina
Updated on Jul 21, 2014
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