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Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter

Glassy-winged sharpshooter (GWSS) is a serious new pest in California.  Like other sharpshooters, the GWSS spreads Xylella fastidiosa, the bacterium that causes Pierce's disease in grapevines. The GWSS is a more vigorous feeder than other sharpshooters and travels greater distances, therefore increasing incidence and spread of Pierce's disease.

In other states and countries various strains of Xylella fastidiosa cause disease in citrus, peaches, plums, coffee, oak, elm, maple, mulberry and sycamore.  Every effort is being made to prevent the introduction of this insect into new areas. Since many people have not seen the glassy-winged sharpshooter, it can be confused with other insects occurring in vineyards and backyards.

If you find a glassy-winged sharpshooter, call the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner's office immediately at (707) 565-2371

Glassy-winged Sharpshooter Identification
(click links for pop-up pictures)

  • Approximately 1/2 inch (11 to 13 mm) long.
  • Body shape is parallel-sided with a pointed head.
  • Wings are partly transparent with reddish veins, folded flat over the body.
  • Dark brown to black in color with ivory white undersides and belly.
  • Top of head has small, ivory-to-yellow spots
  • Underside shows piercing/sucking mouthparts.
  • Muscles that operate the feeding pump give the face a swollen appearance.
  • Length of hind tibia has two rows of small spines.
  • While resting, they shift their bodies from side-to-side (inspiring the name "sharpshooters").
  • The Glassy-winged sharpshooter has five nymphal (immature) stages.
  • Nymphal length ranges from 1/16 inch (2 mm) long for the first stage up to 3/8 inch (9 mm) for the fifth stage.
  • Nymphs are olive-gray with prominent reddish eyes.
  • Immatures are wingless and have softer bodies.
  • Immatures have piercing/sucking mouthparts and a bulging face.

Insects Resembling Glassy-winged Sharpshooter

Look-A-Like (Click on images to enlarge)
Similar Characteristics Distinguishing Characteristics

Cicada adult
  • Clear membraneous wings.
  • Piercing, sucking mouthparts.
  • Wings folded at an angle, forming a roof or tent over the body.
  • Larger in size, 1 to 2 inches long.
  • Well-developed first pair of legs (expanded front tibia).

Spittlebug adult
  • Some have similar coloration, variable from brownish yellow to rusty brown.
  • Some approximately same size or smaller size.
  • Piercing, sucking mouthparts.
  • Body shape broader mid-body (frog shaped or almond shaped) tapering toward the front and the end (not parallel-sided).
  • Hind tibia with a circlet of spines at apex.

Click Beetle Adult
  • Brown Coloration
  • Elongate-narrow body.
  • May attain length of 1/2 inch (13 mm).
  • Front wings hard and opaque
  • Chewing-type mouthparts (mandibulate).
  • Narrow gap between and thorax (trunk) and abdomen.
  • Posterior corners of the thorax prolonged backward into sharp points.

Twig Borer Adult
  • Dark brown coloration.
  • Cylindrical in shape.
  • Approximately same size, 3/8 to 3/5 inch (8 to 16 mm).
  • Front wings are hard and opaque.
  • Chewing-type mouthparts (mandibulate).
  • Thorax wider near the head than at its base.

Glassy-winged Sharpshooter Links:

California Department of Food and Agriculture GWSS Page

California Department of Food and Agriculture Pierce's Disease Control Program