I am hoping you can help me identify the spiny little critters that have taken up residence on my eggplants. Sorry the picture is not real clear, but it does show their yellow and brown stripes, and the spikes that cover them all over. I live in San Diego, California. How can I get rid of them without using some harmful chemical? Would insecticidal soap work?
Thanks for your Help,
Your eggplants have an infestation of Keelbacked Treehoppers, Antianthe expansa, in the nymph stage. The adults are green winged creatures that have sharply keeled backs and sharp spines on each side of the head. The nymphs are black and orange and spiny as indicated in your photo. The nymphs are very sensitive to approaching danger and migrate to the other side of the stem en masse away from the hands of the gardener or any other perceived danger. They feed on the sap of solanaceous plants including eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. Treehoppers, which belong to the insect order Homoptera, are related to aphids, cicadas, mealybugs, scale insects and leafhoppers. You can try picking them manually, but beware the sharp spines, or you can spray the plants with a mild solution of soapy water.