Systematic studies on leafhoppers (Auchenorrhyncha: Cicadellidae) are carried out with the aim of elucidating their biodiversity in the Grassland and Savanna Biomes. These insects are very common in grassland, with a large diversity of endemic species. Current emphasis is on the wingless forms that are most vulnerable to changes in their habitat. These insects can be used as indicators of grassland conditions, such as influence by grazing, burning, agricultural practices and rehabilitation. Routine work involves thrips and the pentatomorpha group of the true bugs.

Michael Stiller



Research activities


  • Routine identifications are done of cicadas, planthoppers, spittlebugs and treehoppers (Auchenorrhyncha) and stink bugs (suborder Heteroptera: Coreidae), shield bugs (Heteroptera: Scutelleridae) and seed bugs (Heteroptera: Lygaeidae), as part of the insect identification service of the PPRI Biosystematics Division


  • Routine identification of thrips (Order Thysanoptera) is carried out with the aid of the large reference collection built up by J.C. Fauré, E.K. Hartwig and R. Zur Strassen. Courses have been presented on the identification techniques and survey material has been examined although the relatively small number of common pest species makes up the bulk of enquiries


  • Current research involves the systematics of grass-feeding leafhoppers of the Grassland and Savanna Biome of Southern Africa. The revision of Nicolaus was published in 1998. This is a grass-feeding leafhopper genus with 24 species found throughout Africa. The endemic Southern African leafhopper genus, Elginus (24 species) and Drakensbergena (18 species) have been revised in 2009. Another endemic genus, Pravistylus with 30 species, Vilargus (9 species) and number of new genera are being examined at present. A number of genera that are also found commonly in grasslands are probably associated with forbs and will form part of future studies


  • An unusual association between ants and leafhoppers on a monocotyledonous plant, Xerophyta (Baboon’s tail) is being studied. So far four species of ants have been identified and it seems that the ants protect the leafhoppers and utilise the sweet liquid expelled by the leafhoppers 
  Drakensbergena longinqua    Elginus minutulus    Elginus recavus    Elginus unispinus    Pravistylus longitrunculus    Pravistylus mollidiscus    Pravistylus pollediscus    Drakensbergena festucacola