Leafhoppers are sap-sucking insects capable of transmitting plant viruses and phytoplasmas. A recent taxonomic study of local leafhopper species was based on specimens curated by the South African Nursing Council (SANC), as well as specimens donated by Stellenbosch University in 2010, and material collected during fieldwork from 1995 to 1998.
Twelve new species were described in a new genus of leafhoppers Geelus, named after the yellow colour of these species. One of these new species, G. dundraad, was collected on rooibos grown for tea on several Western Cape farms. The new leafhopper species was also collected on various other plants at numerous localities in the fynbos biome.
The major leafhopper pest of rooibos tea is a different species that feeds superficially and causes leaf shedding. However, it is not a virus disease vector. The new species belong to a group of leafhoppers that are known virus and phytoplasma vectors. Thus, as the rooibos tea industry expands, the possibility increases that these insects could transmit new diseases. – Plant Protection Newsletter, ARC