Autumn is when we set to and tidy up the left-overs of summer, and what a summer it’s been with dry weather and hot days extending right into April, notwithstanding two days of torrential downpours in the middle of the month.
And while we’re out cutting back, pruning, weeding and so on, keep an eye out for these little blighters, the eggs of the passionvine hopper (Scolypopa australis).
These eggs have been laid to overwinter and hatch as those madly hopping “fuyffybums” in spring which then turn into “lace-wing moths”, except they’re not moths at all, but double-whammy bugs – they suck ferociously at both stages and the hoppers excrete honeydew which attracts sooty mould, as well as ants and bees.
The egg stage is their weak link (as anyone who has tried to spray them or squash them knows) – by cutting them out now you’ll have fewer pests to contend with in spring and summer.
The eggs are laid in a straight line in twiggy material of all sorts – old daylily and alstroemeria stems (and the like), fuchsias, roses, hydrangeas. I’ve even found some in a decaying rhubarb stalk. Once you’ve spotted a couple of infested twigs, you’ll see them all over the garden.
The twigs must be destroyed (burned), not composted.
I have seen the passionvine hopper mentioned in connection with the disease that started killing cabbage trees in the North Island in 1987 so they can clearly carry problems with them too.
Go forth, seek and destroy! Good hunting, comrades …