Do Leaf Footed Bugs Bite? Biting Tendencies Revealed

Leaf-footed bugs are a type of insect known for their distinctive hind legs, which resemble leaves. These bugs belong to the family Coreidae and are medium to large in size. They are often found feeding on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and ornamental plants using their piercing-sucking mouthparts to extract nutrients from seeds and other plant parts.

While they might look intimidating, the good news is that leaf-footed bugs do not bite humans. They are not known for being a threat to people, unlike some other insects such as mosquitoes. However, they can cause damage to crops and gardens, making them a nuisance for farmers and gardeners alike.

It’s essential to differentiate leaf-footed bugs from similar looking insects, like assassin bugs, which are beneficial. Assassin bugs help control pests by feeding on other insects. Recognizing the differences between these bugs can save you from accidentally eliminating the helpful species in your garden.

What Are Leaf Footed Bugs

Identification and Unique Appearance

Leaf-footed bugs belong to the Hemiptera order and the Leptoglossus genus. They are called “leaf-footed” because part of their hind legs is wide and flat, resembling a leaf. This leaf-like expansion is believed to help males in fighting for females (source). Here are some unique characteristics:

  • Length: 1/2 to 3/4 inch
  • Hind legs: Wide and flat leaf-like expansions
  • Wings: Yes, but nymphs do not have wings

Camouflage and Coloration

Adult leaf-footed bugs usually display a brown coloration, which aids them in camouflaging with their environment. On the other hand, nymphs can have a color range from deep orange to light brown (source).

Comparison Table: Adults vs. Nymphs

Feature Adults Nymphs
Size 1/2 to 3/4 inch Smaller than adults
Leaf-like hind legs Yes No
Wings Yes No
Colors Brown Deep orange to light brown

Leaf-footed bugs are sometimes mistaken for assassin bugs, which are beneficial insects that feed on other insect pests. Recognizing leaf-footed bugs correctly is essential, as they can cause damage to various plants, including tomatoes, peaches, blueberries, beans, okra, and pecans (source).

Do Leaf Footed Bugs Bite

Piercing Mouthparts

Leaf footed bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts that they use for feeding on plant parts, particularly seeds1. However, unlike some other insects with similar mouthparts, they don’t typically bite humans.

Harmless to Humans

These insects are generally harmless to humans and won’t pose any threat2. Should they ever mistakenly bite you in a rare situation, it’s not a cause for concern. Their primary focus is on feeding from plants, not people.

Comparison to Assassin Bugs

Leaf footed bug nymphs are often mistaken for assassin bugs due to their similar appearance3. Here are some key differences:

  • Assassin bugs are beneficial insects that feed on other insect pests4.
  • Leaf footed bugs feed on plants, fruits, and seeds5.

Comparison to Kissing Bugs

While leaf footed bugs are harmless, kissing bugs may pose some health risks due to their potential to transmit a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi6. Here is a comparison table:

Feature Leaf Footed Bugs Kissing Bugs
Bite Humans Rarely Yes
Harmful to Humans No Yes (potential)
Primary Food Plant parts Blood

In summary, leaf footed bugs have piercing mouthparts and are harmless to humans. On the other hand, assassin bugs are beneficial insects that prey on other insect pests, while kissing bugs might pose some health risks if they bite humans.

Feeding and Damage

Fruits and Vegetables Affected

Leaf-footed bugs are known to damage various fruits and vegetables, including:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Pomegranates

These pests are common in North America and can cause significant damage to crops.

Piercing-Sucking Mouthparts and Plant Juices

The feeding process of leaf-footed bugs involves their piercing-sucking mouthparts. These insects puncture plant tissues and then extract the plant juices. This feeding style is similar to that of stink bugs. Some key differences between leaf-footed bugs and stink bugs are:

  • Leaf-footed bugs have larger, more noticeable hind legs
  • Stink bugs produce a strong, unpleasant odor when threatened
  • Leaf-footed bugs are often found on woodpiles, whereas stink bugs prefer crops

Damage to Nuts and Seeds

When leaf-footed bugs target nuts and seeds, they can cause significant damage. These bugs feed on almonds and pistachios, causing the nuts to become malformed or drop prematurely from the trees. This leads to reduced crop yields and economic losses for farmers. To manage these pests, it’s essential to monitor their populations and implement appropriate control measures.

Here’s a comparison table to highlight the differences and similarities between leaf-footed bugs and stink bugs:

Comparison Aspect Leaf-Footed Bugs Stink Bugs
Hind legs Larger Smaller
Odor Doesn’t produce a strong odor Produces a strong, unpleasant odor
Preferred habitat Woodpiles Crops
Feeding style Piercing-sucking mouthparts Piercing-sucking mouthparts
Type of damage Targets fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds Targets fruits and vegetables

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Eggs and Nymphs

Leaf-footed bugs belong to the family Coreidae. Their reproduction starts with females laying eggs. The eggs are golden brown and laid in a single row or chain, usually found along a stem or the underside of a leaf1.

Once the eggs hatch, nymphs emerge. These nymphs look different from the adult bugs but share some similarities, such as the leaf-like expansions on their hind legs.

Life Cycle Stages and Instar

The life cycle of leaf-footed bugs consists of five stages, known as instars2. Each stage represents a different phase of nymph development, with the bugs growing larger and more closely resembling adults in each stage.

Some key changes between the stages are:

  • Size increases
  • Color changes
  • Wings development

Laying Eggs and Aggregations

For the genus Leptoglossus, the wide, flat hind legs may aid males in fighting for females for mating opportunities.

Once eggs are laid, it’s common for leaf-footed bugs to aggregate in clumps throughout various stages of their life cycle3. These aggregations can be a useful way to identify and control infestations, particularly before harvest.

In summary, leaf-footed bugs reproduce through laying eggs, with nymphs emerging and developing through five instar stages before reaching adulthood. These insects are often found in aggregations from egg-laying to adulthood, which can be used for monitoring and control purposes.

Management and Prevention

Natural Enemies and Predators

One way to manage leaffooted bug populations is by encouraging their natural enemies such as the parasitic fly, Trichopoda pennipes. These flies lay their eggs on adult bugs, and the larvae consume the host insect. Consider the following:

  • Plant flowering species to attract these beneficial insects.
  • Regularly inspect your plants for eggs and nymphs.

Insecticidal Soap and Pesticides

Another management option is to use insecticidal soap or pesticides. These products should be used cautiously, as they can also harm non-target species.

Pros:

  • Effective in controlling pests.
  • Can be used in combination with other management methods.

Cons:

  • May harm beneficial insects.
  • Requires careful application to avoid damage to plants.

Physical Barriers and Row Covers

Covering your plants with row covers can help prevent leaf-footed bugs from accessing them. Physically removing and disposing of bugs, eggs, and nymphs can also be effective. Be aware of:

  • Row covers need to be placed when pests are most active.
  • Periodically check for unwanted pests under the covers.

Comparison Table

Management Method Pros Cons
Natural Enemies Eco-friendly; long-term solution May take time to establish
Insecticidal Soap Effective control of pests May harm non-target organisms
Physical Barriers No chemicals; reusable May limit growth or hinder pollination

Habitat and Distribution

North America and Western Conifer Seed Bug

Leaf-footed bugs are commonly found in North America, with the Western Conifer Seed Bug being a prominent species in this region. These insects typically reside in coniferous forests and wooded areas:

  • Primary habitat: coniferous forests
  • Secondary habitat: wooded backyards, woodpiles

Western Conifer Seed Bugs are distinguishable by their:

  • Large size (16-21mm)
  • Brownish-orange color
  • Hind legs with flat, leaf-like protrusions

Ornamentals, Shrubs, and Trees

Leaf-footed bugs can also be found on ornamental plants, shrubs, and trees, where they feed on fruits, seeds, and plant sap. Examples of plants they are attracted to include:

  • Ornamentals: roses, chrysanthemums
  • Shrubs: hibiscus, azaleas
  • Trees: palm trees, citrus trees

To manage and control leaf-footed bug populations, some effective methods include:

Pros:

  • Using row covers on vulnerable plants
  • Regularly checking woodpiles and shrubs for signs of infestation
  • Removing and destroying infested plant material

Cons:

  • Methods may require time and effort to implement and maintain
  • Row covers may not be aesthetically pleasing
  • Complete eradication is usually challenging

Comparison table:

Feature Western Conifer Seed Bug Other Leaf-Footed Bugs
Primary habitat Coniferous forests Various habitats
Identification Hind legs with leaf-like protrusions Flat, wide expansions on hind legs
Preferred plant types Conifers Ornamentals, shrubs, and trees

By understanding the habitats and distribution of leaf-footed bugs, it becomes easier to recognize and manage infestations in gardens and landscapes.

Footnotes

  1. Leaffooted Bug Management Guidelines–UC IPM – ucanr.edu 2
  2. Leaffooted Insect Pests – Gardening Solutions – University of Florida … 2
  3. Eastern Leaf-footed Bug | NC State Extension Publications 2
  4. Leaffooted Insect Pests – Gardening Solutions – University of Florida …
  5. Leaffooted Bug Management Guidelines–UC IPM – ucanr.edu
  6. Kissing Bugs and Chagas Disease – eXtension

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.

47 thoughts on “Do Leaf Footed Bugs Bite? Biting Tendencies Revealed”

  1. We live in Dutchess County, New York and My daughter and I had just been admiring the leafbug as he walked up and down our table on our deck. It then climbed on my arm and walked up and down my arm as well. My daughter put her arm next to mine and it walked on her then it bite her and we had to shake it very hard to get it off her arm. The only reason I let it walk on us was because I had read that they do not bite/sting humans. From what i just read it wasn’t an adult yet it still had red antennas and it was all green it did not have it’s black spots yet.

    Reply
    • Thank you for providing this report, but the insect that you describe does not sound like an immature Leptoglossus species. There are many insects that are capable of biting a person, yet they are not normally known for biting. We have even received several reports of Cicadas inflicting a painful bite, but we must stress that this is not typical behavior. Without a photograph of the bug you describe, it is impossible for us to provide a definite comment. Many Assassin Bugs will bite, and superficially they resemble Leaf Footed Bugs.

      Reply
  2. Shonna, I agree. Up here in Michigan this bug chased me as well when I was taking out the garbage. I believe it has something to do with the CO2 emitting from my body. My BFriend caught it and I have a picture of it. They DO chase you around and believed to be similar to the triatomine bug ( kissing bug ) which are very dangerous to humans on contact; they give you a virus worst than HIV I read. – Christy

    Reply
  3. How do I get rid of the Leaf Footed bug.. They are destroying my tomato plants. I have used water and dish soap. Vinegar with crushed garlic and cheyanne. Nothing seems to work.

    Reply
  4. I live in Wichita Falls, TX and I was just hanging out in my house when I felt something bit my arm, hard. I grabbed it with my other hand and it sprayed something that made my hand smell like old wet clothes. It was 1/4 inch long. It has six legs, flat body, light brown with white spots or strips, but it doesn’t have those leaf legs. Other than that like looks just like this. Any ideas on what it might be?

    Reply
  5. I also live in Tampa. I was outside with my dog. She had a black leaf footed bug on her back. I could tell it was biting her. I knocked it off and when I did, a large amount of blood when down with it. It was on the concrete and her fur. I know I did not kill as I could not find any trace of it except a few drops of blood. She received a very large swollen bite wound on her back from it. I watched it closely and it went away in a few days. These bugs do bite! One bit my dog, all the way through her fur.

    Reply
  6. I was just bit on a walk in GA by a beetle/stinkbug type of insect. I’ve been browsing through hundreds of photos trying to figure out what got me. It reminded me of what my husband calls stickbugs in the south (which look nothing like what we called stinkbugs in GA.) I was drawn to this discussion of a Leaf footed bug because of the description on this website: http://www.austinbug.com/larvalbug/beast/archbeast9-11.html
    1. I first thought it was a wasp on my cheek. (And it took 5 swipes to get it off.)
    2. It made a buzzing (or even clicking sound).
    3. The hand that swiped it off my cheek smelled like CINNAMON!
    I really wish I’d saved it – but I was so freaked out. Now my cheek is numb and I am researching to see if I need to be worried…

    Reply
  7. I was just bit on a walk in GA by a beetle/stinkbug type of insect. I’ve been browsing through hundreds of photos trying to figure out what got me. It reminded me of what my husband calls stickbugs in the south (which look nothing like what we called stinkbugs in GA.) I was drawn to this discussion of a Leaf footed bug because of the description on this website: http://www.austinbug.com/larvalbug/beast/archbeast9-11.html
    1. I first thought it was a wasp on my cheek. (And it took 5 swipes to get it off.)
    2. It made a buzzing (or even clicking sound).
    3. The hand that swiped it off my cheek smelled like CINNAMON!
    I really wish I’d saved it – but I was so freaked out. Now my cheek is numb and I am researching to see if I need to be worried…

    Reply
    • That is a very interesting account, but we don’t have a clue what might have bitten or stung you and left a scent of cinnamon.

      Reply
  8. South and Central Texas is rife with “stink bugs” (what we call them), but gardeners would call them squash bugs, others would call them leaf footed bugs. Our variety looks like a big, black, overgrown squash bug. Ugly as sin, and they produce a sickly sweet stench if you threaten them. The also on occasion will bite, if the opportunity arises, though it’s rare. We hated them as kids, especially since these bugs seemed smart enough to fly right at you, as their best defense. It would send us running. Or you risked getting sprayed, or bitten. As adults, I hate them even more as they ruin tomato and pepper plants. They especially love pin-marking near ripe tomatoes all to hell. And now that I’m older and wiser to go into the garden armed with a spray bottle filled with water and dish soap, which kills them by suffocation in just a couple of minutes, they fly away quickly. Before I can even get within 5 feet. Funny how when I walked into the garden at the beginning of the season with no spray, they allowed me to get very close. Now that I’m killing them wholesale, they somehow know that I’m walking death. I hate them. These things are the bain of every Texan. And yes there are many varieties. Here’s a pic of one such ugly fella:
    http://tdpippin.tripod.com/e_tx_scenes/thumbnails/600×450/squash_bug-close1.jpg

    Reply
  9. South and Central Texas is rife with “stink bugs” (what we call them), but gardeners would call them squash bugs, others would call them leaf footed bugs. Our variety looks like a big, black, overgrown squash bug. Ugly as sin, and they produce a sickly sweet stench if you threaten them. The also on occasion will bite, if the opportunity arises, though it’s rare. We hated them as kids, especially since these bugs seemed smart enough to fly right at you, as their best defense. It would send us running. Or you risked getting sprayed, or bitten. As adults, I hate them even more as they ruin tomato and pepper plants. They especially love pin-marking near ripe tomatoes all to hell. And now that I’m older and wiser to go into the garden armed with a spray bottle filled with water and dish soap, which kills them by suffocation in just a couple of minutes, they fly away quickly. Before I can even get within 5 feet. Funny how when I walked into the garden at the beginning of the season with no spray, they allowed me to get very close. Now that I’m killing them wholesale, they somehow know that I’m walking death. I hate them. These things are the bain of every Texan. And yes there are many varieties. Here’s a pic of one such ugly fella:
    http://tdpippin.tripod.com/e_tx_scenes/thumbnails/600×450/squash_bug-close1.jpg

    Reply
  10. My 7 year old son was playing on the playground when a leaf footed bug fell on his head. He thought it was a leaf and used his hand to get it off. While doing so the bug bit him and he was in real pain. It only took a few minutes for his finger and half his hand to swell up. He is a tough cookie and the way he was crying and holding his finger I thought he had broken it. After 5 minutes of crying, which seemed like an eternity, he pointed to the bug that bit him. I took a picture and first posted it on FB for some feedback but after searching the internet it clearly was a leaf footed bug. The bug that bit him had the leaves on the back legs. Most people were telling us it must have been an assassin bug but the body nor the legs look anything like it. Anyway this is the only place I have seen on the web that they bite…and let me tell you they do. My son was in a lot of pain. We took some meds and iced his hand for a couple of hours and the swelling went down some. After 24 hours his finger and hand was back to normal and he could move it without pain.

    Reply
    • Eric Eaton once wrote to us that if it has a mouth, it can bite. Though they feed on plants, Leaf Footed Bugs have mouths designed to pierce and suck, so an unintentional bite could result in the symptoms you described.

      Reply
  11. I got bit when it walked in my collar of shirt, like a bee sting, swell up about the same as a bee sting.Guess I was crushing it when it bit

    Reply
  12. A lot of these bites, especially the ones in TX and FL- beware of kissing bugs! They look similar to leaf footed or stink bugs but are deadly.. you should not be letting bugs crawl on your arms for fun no matter what. Be sure to identify any bugs that bite you and make sure they are not kissing bugs

    Reply
  13. I live in Hilton Head Island SC and we have some bugs here at my office that look like a leaf footed bug but they are big. They measure about 2″ long and have a proboscis. They are grey in color and move slowly. They do fly also. Any ideas on what they are. I’ve heard of kissing bugs being here but they aren’t the right color I don’t think. How can I send you a photo for you to identify it?
    Thanks,
    Aaron

    Reply
  14. I live in Hilton Head Island SC and we have some bugs here at my office that look like a leaf footed bug but they are big. They measure about 2″ long and have a proboscis. They are grey in color and move slowly. They do fly also. Any ideas on what they are. I’ve heard of kissing bugs being here but they aren’t the right color I don’t think. How can I send you a photo for you to identify it?
    Thanks,
    Aaron

    Reply
  15. Do.these insects spit or spray a pheremone when threatened? I was walking by a pine tree in central La., i was sweating, felt a mist hit the aide.of my face, i took a step n smelled the odor of a stink bug like smell and it immediately starting burning so bad i had to get in nearby creek and wash it off. Went back to area and at my head level was a large insect that appears to look like this species. I took a picture of it but cant send a picture here. Would like to know your opinion. email.me at liftoshort@gmail.com

    Reply
  16. I live in Oklahoma. My wife just got bit by one of these leef footed insects. It was confirmed by our nearest nature center that the insect was a leaf footed bug. She slapped it not knowing what it was and it bit her. She shook it off and we kept it to have it inspected. It left a little needle tip sized mark and within 10 minutes it looked like a small blister.

    Reply
    • Leaf Footed Bugs are not considered aggressive, but they do have mouths designed to pierce plant skins to suck fluids. We suspect that in the event a Leaf Footed Bug was being swatted, it might bite and the bite is most likely painful.

      Reply
  17. I have this exact bug trapped, right now, underneath my metal lantern. I came out on my balcony to see what my kitten was so scared of. At the exact time I was walking out the bug pounced on him and bit his face. These bugs do bite, sting, stick a needle in you or whatever you want to call it. I live in Memphis, Tennessee and have a perfect picture of it.

    Reply
    • Also, before you even say it.. My kitten had not swatted at it or even attempted to mess with it. It was making a clicking noise and then just pounced.

      Reply
  18. I live in Trinidad and we have loads of red and black leaf footed bugs on our Barbadine fruit. I brushed one off and felt like a razor blade cut my finger. No mark left but my finger swelled up to twice normal and it’s been like it for 6weeks. Doctor and MRI scan show bone infected so,am now on antibiotics. The local Trinis say to keep away from them as the ‘leaves’ on the back legs sting!

    Reply
  19. Hi I am in the catskills in new york. My house had somehow become infested with both the shield bug and leaf footed bug. I say infested as 2 landed on me while i was sleeping last night. I turned on the light and found 4 more. UGH. I am wondering if they could have overwintered in one of the many house plants i have? I’m about to toss my plants all outside because I cant find a source of where they are coming from. I ordered a safe neem spray and the second it gets here i’ll use it. Any other suggestions as what to do? And yes I have also been bit by them. Last week I was sitting at my desk doing paperwork when i felt a pinch on my foot, look down and theres one biting my foot. I’ve had my house 15 years and have never had this problem before. Help!

    Reply
  20. Both my husband and I have been bitten by the Leptoglossus brevirostris. Large painful welts that last over 5 days. We were bitten while sleeping and never felt the bites until the next morning. I had problems breathing and had tight heart and painful heart muscles. My husband who is 86 is definitively weaker since being bitten. We have had blood tests which do not show an infection in either one of us. We have found only two of these bugs and have frozen them.

    Reply
  21. About a week ago, I had a leaf-footed bug crawl up my leg and gouge a 1 inch long cut in my groin. It would seem that these bugs could carry parasites as they do bite people. Supposedly they do not bite humans a lot, but I have a hard time believing that. I thought, at first, that it was a kissing bug, but the leaves on its legs ruled that out. This bug was just plain mean and nasty.

    Reply
    • My finger bite healed quickly but 2 years later it’s still noticeably wider than my other middle finger. Trust your bite wasn’t too tender or if it was the ‘swelling’ may be a plus!!!

      Reply
  22. My 5 year old was playing in the pool. A leaf footed bug landed on the back
    Of her neck and bit her! She was screaming and crying in pain. I trapped the bastard bug and did research. It’s a leaf footed bug. Stupid things do bite even though all info says they do not harm humans! Can’t always believe everything on the internet (just like the French model commercial lol) I live in western NY.

    Reply
  23. My 5 year old was playing in the pool. A leaf footed bug landed on the back
    Of her neck and bit her! She was screaming and crying in pain. I trapped the bastard bug and did research. It’s a leaf footed bug. Stupid things do bite even though all info says they do not harm humans! Can’t always believe everything on the internet (just like the French model commercial lol) I live in western NY.

    Reply
    • While we would go on the record that Leaf Footed Bugs do not normally bite humans and that they are not considered to be venomous or harmful to humans, there do seem to be enough instances for us to comfortably agree that Leaf Footed Bugs are capable of biting humans.

      Reply
  24. I live in NC and was just bitten by a leaf footed bug nymph. It got trapped in my pants and bit the back of my knee. I never took my pants off so fast in my life!! It stung for about 1-2 minutes and and then began itching just slightly and looked like a mosquito bite (kinda puffy). I saved it in a bag in case I needed to go to the hospital. It looked very threatening and intimidating with its hind end curved up. I was very relieved to know that it wasn’t venomous. I saw it’s stabby part and found it interesting that it stabbed me rather than bit me.

    Reply
  25. I had one crawl up my shorts and chew a two inch bleeding gash up the side of my groin. I thought it was an assassin bug that carries a parasitic disease. The leaf footed bug looks like the assassin bug, except for the leaf shape on their feet. The internet stes write that leaf footed bugs do not bite, that is, obviously incorrect.

    Reply
  26. So this picture I sent to Google says that it is a black footed leaf bug.I was not bitten but my dog just sniffed one on a leaf.Her reaction was that of a wasp sting..It took several minutes for her to stop freaking out.I’m not sure if she was bitten or sprayed.

    Reply
  27. I have an infestation on my tomato plants. I tried using a glove and hand picking them off and dropping in to soapy water. I would get a few but most would fly away. Today I tried using my tiny car vacuum. It worked SO well. I sucked them up, and dumped them into the soapy water. I did this in the am and pm, but almost all are gone now. So satisfying!

    Reply

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