assasin or bad guy?
January 25, 2010
Hello, This bug was congregated with about 16 of his friends on the leaves of a tomato plant. I also found 2 of his cousins on an almost ripe tomato. They are slow moving and make no effort to fly. They have 2 red/orange dots on their sholders.
Balfate, Honduras (North Coast)
Hi Again Brad,
We already provided you with a very short answer, but now that time allows, and we are preparing to post your letter and images, we can give a more detailed answer. These are Leaf Footed Bugs in the family Coreidae, and they are immature nymphs without fully developed wings. Some tropical species in the family have greatly exaggerated hind tibiae, and they are known as Flag Footed Bugs. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide a more specific identification with regards to genus or species. Bugs in the family Coreidae suck nutrients from plants, but they are not generally a problem unless they are very numerous. An exception would be those that feed upon fruits including tomatoes. In California, we have a species of Leptoglossus that injects saliva into fruits such as pomegranate, and this renders portions of the fruit unpalatable. The same may hold for your species if it feeds upon the fruit of the tomato. We also believe that sixteen individuals feeding upon a single tomato plant may compromise the health of the plant.
Thanks a million for the great information. I have continued to inspect my garden for the presence of additional Flag/Leaf footed bugs, but I have not found any others. I find it interesting that they were all congregated on the one tomato bush and nowhere else. Thanks to your help I was able to learn a great deal more about this family of bugs and also gain some additional understanding on an unrelated pest (squash Vine Borer) in my garden. We are using our garden as a test plot for school garden projects we will be working with here in Honduras. Our learning curve is steep and we are grateful to have a resource such as yours.
Brad and Trish Ward
Hospital Loma de Luz, Balfate, Colon, Honduras
We applaud your noble efforts in Honduras. We suspect the reason that all the immature Leaf Footed Bugs were congregated on one plant is that they came from the same brood. Since they have not yet developed wings, they cannot fly to other plants. The winged female was able to fly to a choice food plant and lay her eggs, and since the plant was selected by the female as a food source, there was no need for the young to disperse.
Update from Karl
The two yellow/orange spots on the pronotum are characteristic of both the adult and late instar nymphs of Leptoglossus zonatus. The Bugguide also has an image of a nymph. The species ranges from northern South America to the southwest USA. According to Wikipedia: “In Honduras, where the bug is known commonly as chinche patona (large-legged bug), it is a minor garden pest.” It appears it may be extending its range eastward in the southern USA, and the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (Division of Plant Industry) has recently issued a ‘Pest Alert’ for this species in Florida. Regards.