Are Leaf Footed Bugs Dangerous? Uncovering the Truth

Leaf Footed Bugs: A Comprehensive Look at Their Danger

Leaf-footed bugs are a common sight in gardens and yards, as they feed on a variety of plants and fruits.

These insects have noticeable leaf-shaped hind legs, which is where they get their name from.

While they may be visually intriguing, the question of whether leaf-footed bugs are dangerous is worth exploring.

Are Leaf Footed Bugs Dangerous

Though leaf-footed bugs are considered pests, they are not known to be harmful to humans.

Their primary negative impact lies in their feeding habits, as they can cause damage to plants and crops. Subsequently, they may become a nuisance for gardeners and farmers.

It’s important to note that not all members of the leaf-footed bug family are damaging.

Some species can even contribute positively to the ecosystem, by preying on other more harmful insects. In these cases, having leaf-footed bugs in your garden may be beneficial for natural pest control.

Are Leaf Footed Bugs Dangerous?

Leaf footed bugs are primarily plant-eating insects and are not known to bite or harm humans.

They have piercing-sucking mouthparts, which they use to feed on plant parts, particularly seeds1.

Here are some aspects you should know about their effects on human health:

  • Harmless to humans: They do not pose a direct threat to human health.
  • Nuisance: Due to their large size and buzzing sound while flying, they can be annoying but not dangerous.

Potential Harm to Pets

When it comes to pets, these bugs pose a low risk.

Here are some aspects to consider:

  • Non-toxic: Leaf footed bugs are not known to be toxic to pets.
  • Unlikely to harm pets: As they primarily feed on plants, they are unlikely to bite or harm pets.

Pros and Cons of Leaf Footed Bugs

ProsCons
Not a direct threat to humans or petsCan be a nuisance and annoy people and pets
Non-toxic to petsCan cause damage to plants in gardens and farms

Therefore, leaf footed bugs mostly affect plants and are not a direct threat to humans or pets. Their presence can be annoying, but they are not harmful.

Identification and Appearance

Leaf-footed bugs belong to the family Coreidae and genus Leptoglossus.

A distinctive feature of these insects is the widened, flat, leaf-like expansion on their hind legs1.

This unique characteristic aids males in “fighting” for females2.

Coloration

The color of leaf-footed bugs can vary, but they are usually found in darker shades, with some having tan, orange, or yellowish colors3.

Certain species, like the eastern leaf-footed bug (Leptoglossus phyllopus), have a noticeable white line running across the back of their wings4.

Size

Leaf-footed bugs typically range from 1/2 to 3/4 inch in length5.`

Key features to identify leaf-footed bugs include:

  • Widened, flat, leaf-like hind legs
  • Dark-colored, with variations of tan, orange, or yellow hues
  • 1/2 to 3/4 inch in length

Comparison of leaf-footed bugs and Assassin bug

InsectAppearanceSizeBeneficial / Pest
Leaf-footed bug (Coreidae)Dark-colored, leaf-like expansion on hind legs, white line on wings (in some species)1/2-3/4 inchPest
Assassin bugVarying colors, elongated head, stout beak, long legs0.5-1 inchBeneficial

Life Cycle and Habits

Eggs

Eastern leaf-footed bugs lay golden brown eggs in a single row or chain, often found along a stem or the underside of a leaf.

The eggs hatch into nymphs after around two weeks.

Nymphs

Nymphs go through five stages, known as instars, before becoming adults. They can be spotted by their bright red or orange color with black legs.

As they grow, their color changes, and they develop wing pads.

Adults

Adult leaf-footed bugs are brown and have flattened, leaf-shaped hind legs.

They are pests, damaging buds, flowers, fruits, and seeds of various plants such as tomatoes, peaches, blueberries, beans, okra, and pecans.

Leaf Footed Bug Nymph

Generations

Leaf-footed bugs usually have two to three generations per year. They overwinter in adult form, protected in leaf litter or other sheltered areas.

In spring, the adults lay eggs, and the new generation of nymphs emerges.

Characteristics of Leaf-footed bugs:

  • Golden brown eggs in a single row or chain
  • Nymphs go through five instars before becoming adults
  • Adults pests that damage plants
  • Two generations per year
  • Overwinter as adults in sheltered areas

Leaf-footed bug lifecycle

Lifecycle StageDuration/ColorFeatures
Eggs2 weeks/Golden brownLaid in a row or chain
NymphsFive instars/Red or orangeChange color and develop wing pads
AdultsBrownDamage plants; have leaf-shaped hind legs

Diet and Damage to Plants

Leaf-footed bugs are insects that feed on plant parts, particularly seeds1. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts, allowing them to damage various plants.

The nymphs and adults feed on plants and cause damage to plant tissues while feeding.

Affected Crops and Gardens

Leaf-footed bugs feed on a wide variety of crops and garden plants, causing damage to fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and ornamentals2.

Some common examples include:

  • Citrus
  • Leaves
  • Crops
  • Nuts
  • Tomatoes
  • Pomegranates
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios

Influence on Fruit and Nuts

When leaf-footed bugs feed on fruit and nut plants, they can cause significant damage. These include:

  • Deformed fruits and nuts
  • Stunted growth
  • Reduced crop yields

Here’s a comparison table to show the impact of leaf-footed bugs on some common plants and crops they affect:

Plant or CropDamage
CitrusBlemishes, scarred fruit, stunted growth
TomatoesPunctured skin, sunken areas, rot
PomegranatesHusk damage, discolored arils, fruit drop
AlmondsShriveling, reduced yield, kernel damage
PistachiosDeformed shells, early fruit drop

Prevention and Management

Cultural Practices

One effective way to prevent and manage leaf-footed bugs in your garden is by adopting good cultural practices.

You can:

  • Keep the area clean and free of debris
  • Rotate crops annually
  • Remove weeds that can serve as host plants

Maintaining a clean garden reduces food availability and hiding places for these pests, which can help control their population.

Western Leaf Footed Bugs

Biological Control

Biological control involves using natural enemies of leaf-footed bugs, such as assassin bugs and spiders, to manage their population.

Birds can also be beneficial in controlling these pests as they feed on them.

Using beneficial insects like the assassin bug has its advantages:

  • It preys on leaf-footed bugs and other pests
  • It does not harm the plants or the environment

However, it may not provide complete control of the population.

Chemical Control

The use of chemical control should be a last resort, as it can impact both the pests and beneficial insects.

Integrated pest management (IPM) principles recommend using the least toxic pesticides like insecticidal soap.

Pros of using insecticidal soap:

  • It’s less harmful to beneficial insects
  • It’s environmentally friendly

Cons:

  • It may not be effective against large populations
  • It might need frequent applications

Physical Removal

You can also manually remove leaf-footed bugs from your plants. A simple method is to use a vacuum or handpick them off the plants.

Inspecting plants regularly and eliminating their hiding places like woodpiles and barns can also help manage their population.

For large garden areas, using row covers can help protect the plants from these pests.

Keep in mind that you should seal any openings, walls, and windows near your house to prevent them from entering.

Always remember to keep a balance between prevention and management strategies without harming beneficial organisms in your garden ecosystem.

Leaf Footed Bug Nymphs

Conclusion

While leaf-footed bugs may capture our attention with their unique appearance, they are not dangerous to humans or pets.

These insects primarily affect plants, potentially causing damage to crops and gardens.

However, their negative impact can be mitigated through various strategies, such as adopting good cultural practices, using natural predators, and employing targeted pest management techniques.

By understanding their role in ecosystems and employing sustainable methods, we can strike a balance between minimizing nuisance and preserving the delicate balance of our natural environment.

Footnotes

  1. Leaffooted Bug Management Guidelines 2 3
  2. Eastern Leaf-footed Bug 2
  3. Leaf-Footed Bugs
  4. Eastern Leaf-footed Bug
  5. Eastern Leaf-footed Bug

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about Leaf Footed bugs. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Big Legged Bug

It sounds like a helicopter!!
Hello!!! and thank you again for being such a great resource for identification of all things buggy! I’ve turned to you in the past when I’ve had a critter I just couldn’t name, and now, I come to you again.

I have searched through your archives of Beetles 2004, 2005 and current. I’ve also looked at assasin bugs and “true” bugs, but I haven’t been able to find anything that closely matches my “beast”.

Attached are two not so great photos of this 1 inch long, black, flat creature. The segmented burgundy-colored antennae add another inch to the total body length. The back (torso) is completely flat, but he seems to have a nasty hunchback.

He (or she) has a probiscus which it carries curled under it’s teenytiny little head. The back legs are hefty but slightly flattened. When it flies it sounds like a powerful propellor engine. Could you help me identify it? Thank you so much!
Sharon Israel
Memphis, TN

Hi Sharon,
You needed to check the True Bugs page for this one. This is one of the Coreid Bugs or Big Legged Bugs or Leaf Footed Bugs. More specifically, it is in the genus Acanthocephala.

Letter 2 – Big Footed Bug

Subject: What’s that bug?
Location: Mississippi, USA
December 2, 2013 3:38 pm
-Seen in Mississippi, near the Louisiana border
-2-3” long-Swarmed by them but not bitten
Signature: Wondering

Big Footed Bug
Big Footed Bug

Dear Wondering,
This is a Big Footed Bug in the genus
Acanthocephala, and they mature and reach maximum size in the autumn, which is why we are beginning to get identification requests submitted. 

We just posted another Big Footed Bug from Texas.  We have not heard any reports of people being bitten by this plant feeding genus.  We believe your individual is Acanthocephala declivis and you can get additional information on BugGuide, where the identifying feature of the species is described as:  “Humeral angles of pronotum broadly expanded, extending laterally well beyond maximum lateral abdominal margin.”

Letter 3 – Big Legged Bug

Subject: Strange insect in Georgia
Location: Bulloch County, (southeastern) Georgia, USA
January 23, 2015 8:21 am
I would greatly appreciate any assistance in identifying this unusual-looking insect which was photographed in Bulloch County, Georgia on January 13, 2015, at approximately 11:15 a.m. Thank you.
Signature: William R.

Big Legged Bug
Big Legged Bug

Dear William,
This is a Big Legged Bug in the genus
Acanthocephala, and based on images and range information on BugGuide, we believe it is Acanthocephala declivis.

Letter 4 – Big Legged Bug

Subject: Identification needed
Location: Rowlett, Texas
November 11, 2014 8:36 pm
I was wanting to know what kind of bug this is Mr. Bugman?
Signature: Rush

Big Legged Bug
Big Legged Bug

Dear Rush,
This is a Big Legged Bug in the genus
Acanthocephala, most likely Acanthocephala femorata based on this image posted to BugGuide.

Letter 5 – Big Legged Bug

Pictures from San Antonio
Here are some pictures of a bug I found last night near San Antonio, TX. I looked
through your beetle pictures and couldn’t find anything resembling it. I hope you
could identify it. One person told me it was a Leafhopper Stinkbug!?!?!?!

Your insect is in the Coreid Bug Family, a Big Legged Bug or Leaf Footed Bug. This specimen is in the genus Acanthocephala and has no common name.

Letter 6 – Big Legged Bug

What is it?
We found this bug on the license plate of my husband’s truck in Dallas, TX. My husband says it’s a stink bug, and my dad says it’s an assassin beetle. I’ve scoured pictures on the internet, but they all look so similar. Care to help with the identification process?
Curious,
Christina

Hi Christina,
Sadly, you are both wrong. This is in the Coreid Bug Family, a Big Legged Bug or Leaf Footed Bug. This specimen is in the genus Acanthocephala and has no common name.

Letter 7 – Big Legged Bug

Bug on my Sunflower
Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 3:37 PM
This bug started showing up about 2 weeks ago – Davenport, Fl (near Orlando) Do you know what it is?
Thanks for our time,
Danny
Davenport, Fl 33837

Big Legged Bug
Big Legged Bug

Hi Danny,
This is Acanthocephala femorata , a Big Legged Bug or Leaf Footed Bug in the family Coreidae.  It is a plant feeder and is probably sucking the juices from your sunflower.

Letter 8 – Big Legged Bug

Subject: Leaf Footed insect
Location: Malaysia
December 28, 2012 9:06 pm
Hi. I don’t need an ID just in the spirit of sharing wanted to send this through. It’s from the rainforests of peninsular Malaysia. Believe it’s a leaf footed bug from the family Coridae. Nice orange color.
Signature: David

Big Legged Bug

Hi David,
Though you didn’t request and ID, we still tried unsuccessfully to determine a species identification.  Bugs in the family Coreidae are sometimes called Leaf Footed Bugs and sometimes Big Legged Bugs.

  Those known as Leaf Footed Bugs generally have flattened femoral structures.  We would be more inclined to call this a Big Legged Bug.  Hopefully we will eventually get a species identification.

Letter 9 – Big Footed Bug

Subject: Alien creature
Location: 30 mi NW of San Antonio, TX
December 2, 2013 10:39 pm
Found on a tree 30 mi north west of San Antonio, TX 12/2/13. Alien invasion?
Signature: Brad

Big Footed Bug
Big Footed Bug

Dear Brad,
Despite its unusual appearance, this Big Footed Bug in the genus
Acanthocephala is a native species.  There are several members of the genus that are found in Texas.  See BugGuide for additional information.

Letter 10 – Big Legged Bug

Subject: First Bug to identify, many to come
Location: Tuxtla Guiérrez, Chiapas, México
December 5, 2013 9:12 am
Hi, I was relaxing on my patio yesterday, when this little (?) friend came to a flowerpot no more than a couple meters from me, waited a few moments, and then flew away.

I was so amazed by its big hind legs that fortunately, I could take a couple pics.
Thank you for the help!
Signature: Juan

Big Legged Bug
Big Legged Bug

Hi Juan,
You may be amused to learn that your True Bug is in the family Coreidae, and the members are called as Big Legged Bugs.  Though your photo is blurry we suspect it may be a member of the genus
Acanthocephela.  You can get additional information on the genus on BugGuide.

Letter 11 – Big Legged Bug

Subject: Praying Mantis/grasshopper
Location: Tampa, FL
July 12, 2014 11:16 am
Hi. My brothers were jogging in Tampa FL and came upon this bug. It’s very different and we have never seen it before. Could you tell us what it is
Signature: Gabby

Big Legged Bug:  Acanthocephala declivis
Big Legged Bug: Acanthocephala declivis

Dear Gabby,
This is a Big Legged Bug in the family Coreidae, and the species,
 Acanthocephala declivisdoes not have a common name.

Letter 12 – Big Legged Bug

Subject: Id my bug please
Location: Kodak TN
June 1, 2015 11:33 am
I found this bug dead in my dogs water bowl
Signature: thanks

Big Legged Bug
Big Legged Bug

Because of the yellow tipped antennae, we believe your Big Legged Bug is Acanthocephala terminalis, and you may compare your individual to this image on BugGuide

We continued to search BugGuide for an image that revealed the back that is normally hidden under the wings, and we finally located this BugGuide image to confirm that the color on the dorsal surface is consistent with Acanthocephala terminalis. 

Your submission will not go live on our site for several weeks as we will be away during part of June and not responding to emails nor creating new postings at that time.

Letter 13 – Big Legged Bug

Subject: Whats that Bug
Location: Tennessee
November 4, 2015 12:03 pm
I found a bug, actually it was more like he jumped on to me. Anyways he was a white four legged bug with curved antennas.

I’ve taken several photos and tried to find the answer myself with no success. So if you make it to this letter and reply back that would be great.
Signature: Bugs been identified.

Big Legged Plant Bug
Big Legged Plant Bug

This is really a crazy looking image of a Big Legged Plant Bug in the genus Acanthocephala.

Letter 14 – Big Legged Bug

Subject: Curious like a tank bug, FL 32960
Location: Vero Beach, Florida 32960
April 14, 2016 6:58 am
Dear Bugman,
Trusting this finds you well. Quick outline, have spotted this particular bug a baker’s dozen times in the last ten years in the city of Vero Beach Treasure Coast of Florida US.

I have posted pick on fb, but don’t know what species it is. It is a curious and slow moving creature. Size wise 1/4′ heigh x 1″ long, dark in color with orange dots on the end of the antenai (sp?)


If you can identify, at your conveniece that would be cool. I’ll check out a few other resources too, and post back if I find anything interesting.
Florida Tank Bug
Signature: Curious about a bug

Big Legged Bug
Big Legged Bug

This is a Big Legged Bug in the genus Acanthocephala.  Though your image is blurry, based on your location and your description about the “orange dots on the end of the antenai,” we are relatively confident this is Acanthocephala terminalis, a species well represented on BugGuide.

Letter 15 – Big Legged Bug

Subject: Big Black Flying Bug
Location: Mid-Missouri, USA
April 25, 2016 6:36 am
Hi,
Found this guy yesterday eyeing me from the roof.
It’s springtime in Rolla, Missouri and all the bugs are happy.
He’s about an inch and a half long, looks all black, and must have good eyesight because he was looking at me.

I thought he was a stink bug at first, but his body is round. He has a hump on his back, so maybe a relative of the whirligig beetle?
Signature: Bob in Rolla

Big Legged Bug
Big Legged Bug

Dear Bob,
This is a Big Legged Bug in the genus
Acanthocephala.  They are Leaf Footed Bugs in the family Coreidae, and they are in the same suborder as Stink Bugs, hence the resemblance.

Letter 16 – Big Legged Bug

Subject: Grasshopper?
Location: Coastal North Carolina
December 7, 2016 7:46 pm
Hey Bug Man! This guy flew on to this branch like a grasshopper, and then I almost lost him. As you can see he’s very well camouflaged. Why is he?
Signature: Stuart Campbell

Big Legged Bug
Big Legged Bug

Dear Stuart,
This is a Big Legged Bug in the genus
Acanthocephala, and based on your location and the “Antennae uniformly colored, dull reddish or orangish”, we believe it is most likely the Florida Leaf Footed Bug, Acanthocephala femorata, which is described on BugGuide.

Letter 17 – Big Legged Bug

Subject:  Kissing Bug or Stink Bug?
Geographic location of the bug:  Marrero, Louisiana
Date: 11/29/2017
Time: 07:32 AM EDT
On November 23, 2017 the children at the daycare I work at found this insect on the play yard. They think it’s a stink bug, but I’m almost sure it’s a kissing bug.

I said the back legs look like he takes steroids and hits the gym regularly for leg day. I’ve never seen a stink bug that looks like this.
How you want your letter signed:  Not A Bug Fan

Big Legged Bug

Dear Not A Bug Fan,
None of the above.  This is a Big Legged Bug in the genus
Acanthocephala.

Letter 18 – Big Legged Bug

Subject:  Bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Tupelo MS
Date: 12/02/2017
Time: 03:19 PM EDT
Is this poisonous to dogs
How you want your letter signed:  Lisa

Big Legged Bug

Dear Lisa,
This is a Big Legged Bug in the genus
Acanthocephala, and to the best of our knowledge, they are neither venomous nor poisonous to dogs or other creatures, however we would not discount the possibility that if a Big Legged Bug came into contact with pesticides or herbicides used in the garden or home, or if the bug fed from a toxic plant like oleander, that those factors might have a negative effect on a pet that swallowed the bug.

Letter 19 – Big Legged Bug

Subject:  Bug from outer space?
Geographic location of the bug:  North central Florida -Alachua Co
Date: 11/09/2018
Time: 10:56 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Unusual fellow here – we can’t Id – help please .  Beneficial bug?
Photo taken late October.
How you want your letter signed:  Always Learning

Big Legged Bug

Dear Always Learning,
This is a Big Legged Bug in the genus
Acanthocephala, is native to Florida and definitely NOT from outer space.  

Because of the orange tipped antennae and your location, we believe it is Acanthocephala terminalis.  You can check BugGuide to verify our identification.

Letter 20 – Big Legged Bug from Hawaii

Subject:  Bug on car
Geographic location of the bug:  Hawaii
Date: 01/14/2019
Time: 09:15 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Saw this hanging on the car. Pretty creepy. Is it dangerous?
How you want your letter signed:  Hawaii bug

Big Legged Bug

This is a Big Legged Bug in the family Coreidae, and we believe it is in the genus Acanthocephala, but BugGuide does not report any sightings from Hawaii.  We are trying to verify the presence of this genus in Hawaii. 

The similar looking Sweet Potato Bug, Physomerus grossipes, is reported from Hawaii according to Graham’s Island where it states it:  “is a fairly recent introduction to Hawaii, most likely sneaking in on an imported plant.”

Supercool! Thank you!
Mahalo,
Eryn

Letter 21 – Big Legged Bug

Subject:  OMG!
Geographic location of the bug:  Birmingham Alabama
Date: 05/08/2019
Time: 07:55 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What is this bug??
How you want your letter signed:  Shelle

Big Legged Bug

Dear Shelle,
This is a harmless Big Legged Bug in the genus
Acanthocephala.

Letter 22 – Big Legged Bug

Subject:  What is it?
Geographic location of the bug:  Bridgewater, NJ
Date: 05/11/2019
Time: 06:51 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi Bugman,
This one landed on the hood of the car as I was parking. I have never seen one of these around here. Do you know what it is? I looked around the site but didn’t find a match.
How you want your letter signed:  Thank you, Brian

Big Legged Bug

Dear Brian,
This is a Big Legged Bug in the genus
Acanthocephala.  Considering your location, it must be Acanthocephala terminalis, which ranges from Canada to Florida according to BugGuide.

Letter 23 – Big Legged Bug

Subject:  The big black nuisance
Geographic location of the bug:  Monroe NC
Date: 05/28/2019
Time: 12:25 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I keep finding these guys around my back deck. What are they and are they something I have to worry about with my dogs?
How you want your letter signed:  Roger G.

Big Legged Bug

Dear Roger,
This is a Big Legged Bug in the genus
Acanthocephala, and we just finished posting an image of an immature Big Legged Bug.  Big Legged Bugs will not harm your dogs.

Letter 24 – Big Legged Bug

Subject:  Please identify
Geographic location of the bug:  South Carolina
Date: 09/27/2021
Time: 06:50 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi There- Can you please help us identify this bug? Many thanks!
How you want your letter signed:  Tifini Stafford

Big Legged Bug

Dear Tifini,
This is a Big Legged Bug in the genus Acanthocephala.  Based on images and information posted to BugGuide, we believe it is
Acanthocephala declivis

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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