In a new twist on invasive-species biology, a North American insect is menacing Tahitian ecosystems by getting itself killed and proving surprisingly toxic to its predators.
The invader is a half-inch–long leafhopper called the glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca coagulata). It's native to the southeastern United States and northern Mexico, but it reached California in the 1980s. It's a strong flyer and has proved an unusually fast spreader of pathogens such as those for phony peach disease or for Pierce's disease, which can kill a grapevine in 2 years.
Now, the sharpshooter has reached French Polynesian islands including Tahiti and Mo'orea, where it's bringing trouble to paradise, warn two University of California (UC) researchers. Kenwyn Blake Suttle of UC-Berkeley and Mark Hoddle of UC-Riverside say that it's too early to tell whether sharpshooters will bring plant epidemics to the South Pacific.
Sharpshooters are already a local nuisance, th