Leafhoppers and planthoppers are among the most abundant group of insects. They all feed from plant tissue using their piercing and sucking mouthparts, and many are important pests of crop plants spreading diseases during their feeding.
Many of the crops most affected by planthopper and leafhopper-borne diseases are those which significantly impact subsistence farmers in the developing world, including coconut, rice, potato, maize, and sugarcane.
A 3 year research project currently being undertaken at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Musuem Wales aims to provide a comprehensive and accessible web-based guide to the leafhopper and planthopper vectors of phytoplasma, bacteria and virus diseases, aimed at both professional use and workers in developing countries seeking to find accurate information on identification.
Additional research into the songs produced by some members of this insect group, such as the genus Oncopsis, is also being undertaken in conjunction with researchers at the Museum Fur Naturkunde, Berlin.
All leafhoppers and planthoppers produce substrate transmitted acoustic signals in contrast to the loud and prominent airborne songs of Cicadas. Calls of leafhoppers and planthoppers consist usually of pulses with characteristic patterns of amplitude modulation. The vibrations are transmitted to the plant substrate through the feet. One of the main purposes of these so called songs is to attract and find mates for reproduction.
Oncopsis leafhoppers on birch trees are difficult to identify. Investigations (using morphological and acoustic techniques) showed that the species Oncopsis flavicollis consists of at least three sibling species. No recent taxonomic work has been carried out on these sibling species, and nothing was known on the distribution and the songs from European populations so far. Recent results have proved the occurrence of the three types of the nominal species O. flavicollis in several parts of Europe (France, Italy, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom).