Adult smaller green leafhoppers are 3-4 mm long, narrow and light green with purplish eyes. Their wings are longer than the body. They lay their eggs into the tissue of leaf veins and stalks. Therefore the eggs cannot be seen. There are five nymphal instars. The first instar nymphs are small and white, later stages turn light green as they adulthood. From the third stage onwards the developing wings are visible.
Adult Empoasca vitis overwinter on conifers or other evergreens adjacent to vineyards. From there, they migrate into the vineyards soon after bud burst in spring. Adults and nymphs live on the lower surface of the leaves where they suck plant juice from the phloem. They move quickly and jumpr a few centimetres when they are disturbed. Depending on the vine growing region, the smaller green leafhopper has one to four generations on grapevine before returning to the winter hosts.