Gardening enthusiasts and homeowners often face the challenge of dealing with leaf-footed bugs. These medium to large-sized insects are known for their leaf-like hind legs and their ability to cause damage to a variety of plants, such as tomatoes, peaches, blueberries, beans, okra, and pecans. They use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to feed on plant parts, particularly seeds, resulting in weakened or destroyed crops.
It’s essential to recognize and manage these pests to maintain a healthy garden. Luckily, there are several strategies one can employ to control their presence, making it easier to protect your plants from potential damage. In this article, we’ll explore different methods of getting rid of leaf-footed bugs and preventing their return.
From natural predators to barrier techniques, the following sections will provide thorough guidance on combating these garden nuisances. You’ll learn about various approaches you can use to create a more sustainable, bug-free garden, ensuring your plants continue to thrive and produce an abundance of beautiful fruits and vegetables.
Understanding Leaf-Footed Bugs
Leaf-footed bugs pass through five nymphal stages before becoming adults. Their life cycle includes:
- Eggs: Golden brown, laid in a single row or chain on stems or leaf undersides.
- Nymphs: Develop through five stages, becoming more like adults in each stage.
- Adults: Brown with flattened, leaf-shaped hind leg expansions.
Distinguishing features of leaf-footed bugs are:
- Medium to large-sized insects
- Belong to the family Coreidae
- Leaf-like enlargements on hind legs
- Piercing-sucking mouthparts for feeding on plants
To better identify leaf-footed bugs, consider comparing these features:
|Feature||Leaf-Footed Bug||Assassin Bug|
|Size and shape||Medium to large insects||Smaller and more slender|
|Legs||Leaf-like enlargements on hind legs||Thin, with no leaf-like expansions|
|Behavior||Pest – feeds on plants||Beneficial – feeds on other insect pests|
To distinguish between different leaf-footed bug species, look for unique characteristics. For example, the eastern leaf-footed bug (Leptoglossus phyllopus) has a white line across its wing backs.
By understanding the life cycle and identification of leaf-footed bugs, you can better manage them in your garden.
Damage Caused by Leaf-Footed Bugs
Leaf-footed bugs are garden pests that can cause significant damage to a variety of plants, fruits, and vegetables. These insects have piercing-sucking mouthparts which allow them to feed on plant seeds and other parts, particularly in fruiting vegetables, nuts, berries, and ornamentals (source).
Nymphs and adult leaf-footed bugs often target popular garden crops such as tomatoes, pomegranates, eggplants, and nuts (source). They are also known to damage other plants like peaches, blueberries, beans, okra, and pecans (source).
Infestations of leaf-footed bugs could lead to fruit drop, irregular fruit growth, and reduced crop yields (source).
In addition to the direct damage caused by feeding, these pests can also transmit diseases to plants, further exacerbating the harm done to crops and gardens (source).
Comparison Table: Damage caused by leaf-footed bugs
|Plants Affected||Type of Damage|
|Tomatoes||Sucking plant fluids, causing fruit drop and reduced yields|
|Pomegranates||Piercing seeds, causing fruit to split and deform|
|Eggplants||Feeding on seeds, leading to irregular fruit growth|
|Nuts||Damaging nut kernels, reducing crop quality|
Characteristics of leaf-footed bug damage:
- Irregular fruit growth
- Fruit drop
- Reduced crop yields
- Possible transmission of plant diseases
It is crucial for gardeners and farmers to identify and manage leaf-footed bug infestations as these pests can easily wreak havoc on both ornamental and fruit-bearing plants.
Strategies for Controlling Leaf-Footed Bugs
Organic and Chemical Treatments
- Neem oil: A natural pesticide that can be applied on the pests and their eggs.
- Insecticidal soap: Kills nymphs and adults on contact by targeting their soft bodies.
- Pyrethrin: A chemical pesticide that can be used sparingly on infested areas.
- Effective against a range of garden pests.
- Less harmful to beneficial insects when used carefully.
- Can harm beneficial insects and natural predators if overused.
- Some can leave harmful residues on fruits and vegetables.
Natural Predators and Beneficial Insects
- Assassin bugs: Feed on other insect pests, including leaf-footed bug nymphs.
- Spiders: Catch and consume a variety of garden pests.
- Birds: Attracted by seeds, feed on adult leaf-footed bugs and other pests.
Physical Removal Techniques
- Handpicking: Physically removing the bugs from plants and submerging them in soapy water.
- Row covers: Placing covers over plants, especially during spring when bugs lay cylindrical eggs.
- Weed control: Removing weeds to remove shelter and alternative host plants.
- Woodpile management: Eliminating woodpiles where bugs can overwinter, hiding in crevices.
- Planting sunflowers, peppers, or watermelons to deter leaf-footed bugs from the main crops.
- Adding plants that attract beneficial insects to the garden.
Integrated Pest Management
- Combine multiple methods from physical removal, cultural practices, and companion planting.
- Limit the use of chemicals and pesticides to reduce harm to natural predators and beneficial insects.
|Method||Ease of use||Effectiveness||Impact on Environment|
|Integrated pest management||Medium||High||Low|
When dealing with leaf-footed bugs, it’s essential to use a combination of methods to control their populations and minimize their impact on your garden. Adjust your strategy based on the severity of the infestation, your location, and the type of plants you grow for the best results.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Leaf Footed Bug: Acanthocephala declivis, a Pumpkin Bug
January 19, 2010
My kids spotted this big guy crossing our road yesterday. My mother said my grandmother used to call these pumpkin bugs. Since my grandmother also thought a shot of whiskey cured anything that ails you, I’m not sure I trust her bug identification. We did notice it had two sets of wings and six legs, leading my son to think perhaps it was a beetle. He was about 1.25″ long from head to abdomen. Can you help us identify it? Also can you offer information about handling insects and which ones might bite? We tend to use sticks and leaves to move insects since I’m unsure what might bite when I can’t identify it. Thanks so much for your help!
We are on a mission to prove your whiskey swilling grandmother correct. This is a Leaf Footed Bug, a name applied to the entire family Coreidae. Leaf Footed Bugs are also called Big Legged Bugs or Flag Footed Bugs, though the latter name is generally reserved for some tropical species with even more greatly developed tibiae on the hind legs. The family, according to BugGuide, is also referred to as the Squash Bugs because many of the 88 known North American species are plant pests that feed on members of the squash and melon family. A pumpkin is a squash, so maybe Pumpkin Bug was a local name for your species, Acanthocephala declivis, which does not have a specific common name according to BugGuide. BugGuide cites a University of Florida website with this species identification: “Humeral angles of pronotum broadly expanded, extending laterally well beyond maximum lateral abdominal margin. Distal dilation of hind tibia broad until apex, then curving in at right angles to tibial shaft. Anterior pronotal lobe with 2 small shining blunt tubercles along midline.” Try as we might, we are unable to locate a website that specifically connects Acanthocephala declivis to pumpkins, but we trust the wisdom of the ages, and we truly believe your grandmother must have known something. Perhaps she grew pumpkins and found Acanthocephala declivis feeding on the plants each year. Pumpkin Bug is surely much easier to pronounce around the dinner table than Acanthocephala declivis is. In honor of your grandmother, we are going to unofficially proclaim Acanthocephala declivis the Pumpkin Bug. Ailing or not, we think you should drink a shot of whiskey to your sagely grandmother today.
I less than three your site! I’ll definitely throw one back for my granny tonight!
Letter 2 – Leaf Footed Bug Aggregation: Spartocera fusca
Location: Miami, Florida
May 5, 2013 3:49 pm
Hi Bugman, Just wondering if these are Harlequin stinkbugs or something else? I suspect the latter. I am in Miami and these were found today ( Cinco de Mayo!! ) I thought they might be partying! They started a few days ago as 5 or 6 individuals and now the group is up to approx 15-20. Thanks for any info.
You have the correct insect order, True Bugs, but the wrong family. These are actually Leaf Footed Bugs in the family Coreidae, and we identified the species as Spartocera fusca thanks to BugGuide. Alas, the species which BugGuide notes is found from “Mexico, southwestern United States, Florida” in habitat described as “Open areas, cultivated land, gardens,” it does not have a common name, an oversight with such a dramatically colored and marked insect. The leaves on the plant they are feeding upon looks like nightshade, and BugGuide states: “Breeds on Solanum americanum and other plants. Early instar nymphs are gregarious.” Most of the individuals in your photo appear to be wingless nymphs, though it seems the individual on the lower left that is partially obscured by a leaf might be a winged adult. If you have a chance to take another photo of a winged adult, we will gladly add it to this posting.
Hi Daniel, Thanks for your response! I’ve been watching these guys for over a week now. They never venture away from the 3 plants they are on. I managed to get a family shot…from nymph to adult and a single adult shot. Thanks again for your help in identifying my backyard visitors.
Thanks for the additional photos and information.
Letter 3 – Leaf Footed Bug: Acanthocephala species
can you identify this bug?
I have attached 4 pictures of a bug I found crawling up my front door in North Texas. Can you tell me what it is?
This is a Coreid or Leaf Footed Bug in the genus Acanthocephala.
Letter 4 – Leaf Footed Bug: Acanthocephala
Big Bug in Texas
Hi there! This bug looks to be half stink bug/beetle/spider and dinosaur??? My three year old son and I live in Spring, Texas (about 35 miles north of Houston) and we went into the back yard this past Saturday (December 3, 2005) and this little monster was resting on one of the arms of my lawn furniture. I have started seeing them around my office building as well for the last year and a half. I work in downtown Houston and haven’t met a person yet who knows what these little creatures are. I’ve even looked around online trying to find SOME clue but haven’t had any luck, since I don’t know what they’re called … or what bug family they’re in (beetle family? strange bug family? pre-hisoric bug family?) I know it seems to be able to see pretty well. It was watching my three year old son closely when it thought he might be getting a little too close (and… of course my sreams didn’t help much) … it flies really well too! Anxiously awaiting your reply…
Alida in Texas.
This is a Coreid Bug, also commonly known as Leaf Footed Bugs or Big Legged Bugs. This particular specimen is in the genus Acanthocephala, probably Acanthocephala declivis.
Letter 5 – Leaf Footed Bug: Acanthocephala
Assassin Bug? Which one?
I love your site. Just found it tonight. Can you please help identify this bug. It was found by a co- worker in auburn massachusetts. We recieve materials from all over, and this guy may have been a stow away. I have found similar specimens in my home, but always 1/2 the size and different characteristics. When I find another I know where to go.
This is not an Assassin Bug, but a Coreid Bug, a group commonly known as Big Legged Bugs or Leaf Footed Bugs. Your species is in the genus Acanthocephala.
Letter 6 – Leaf Footed Bug
Could Be A Western Leaf-Footed Bug
My wife and I were watching T.V. and saw something flying across to room from out of no where. I caught it under a glass and spent a little time looking it up on the Internet. Your site was the first one that I saw a picture of something that closely resembled what we had caught. It was the picture that was posted by Sharon on 11/8/2006. Attached are some pictures of the insect we caught on 11/8/2006 at about 9:00 P.M. where it was about 70 degrees F here in Saint Joseph, MO. If it is not the same insect do you think that you could identify it for me and my wife?
Chris and Tarah
P.S. It was already missing one of its legs when we caught it.
Hi Chris and Tarah,
Your specimen is closely related to the Western Leaf Footed Bug, but it is not the same species. Your specimen is in the Coreidae family of insects known as Big Legged Bugs or Leaf Footed Bugs. Your specimen does not have a common name, so the general Leaf Footed Bug will apply. Your specimen is Leptoglossus oppositus, and it can be identified by the three white spots on the wings which are visible when the insect is not flying. BugGuide has some excellent photos as well as identification tips on the various species in the genus Leptoglossus.
Letter 7 – Leaf Footed Bug
A NEW BUG QUERY FROM CONNECTICUT, followup (8-25-05)
I don’t know what category to check and, therefore, can not find your ID of my "armored tank" bug. Do you have a special "New Q & A" page? Thanks.
Susan, in Connecticut
Original Message (08/17/2006)
Today I discovered this critter, lurking on a phlox leaf, in a Connecticut garden. He wasn’t skittish and flew, a short distance, only after I disturbed his leafy perch. Thanks.
It is impossible to answer every letter, and your letter was not answered originally. Today we are happy to identify your Leaf Footed Bug in the genus Acanthocephala.
Letter 8 – Leaf Footed Bug
I know that you are swamped with inquiries, but I’ve got to ask for you help here. You don’t even have to post this email/picture, but please give me your opinion. My wife and I are worried taht we’ve caught two of these bugs in our bedroom on the floor, one almost dead, and one still alive. They look like the assasin bug to me, but I can’t see or find the proboscusl. I’m even more nervous as I’m a physician and know about Chagas’ ds. Can you help us?
Dear Dr. Jones,
Fear not. This is not an Assassin Bug, but a Coreid Bug, also known as a Leaf Footed Bug or Big Legged Bug. It is in the genus Acanthocephala, probably either Acanthocephala decliva, A. confraternus, or A. terminalis. We do not feel comfortable taking it to the species level, but perhaps someonw will write in with a positive species identification.
Letter 9 – Leaf Footed Bug
funny feet on orange bug and my new lab mate
Hi!!!! I absolutely love you bug-guys. Thank you for your informative site! So the first bug picture I have .. I found this guy while hiking around in Mexico. I’ve never seen "feet" like that on a bug before. The second picture is of a frequent visitor to the lab where I work in Maryland… we’ve been getting a lot of these species of spiders as well as wolf spiders. What are these bugs~?? Thank you!
We hope you will forgive us for only answering one of your questions for now. Your Mexican Bug is in the family Coreidae, the Leaf Footed Bugs or Big Legged Bugs. We don’t know the species, but it is a gorgeous specimen.
Letter 10 – Leaf Footed Bug
Subject: This guy almost gave me a heart attack!
Location: New Port Richey, FL
October 1, 2013 12:11 pm
I have been completely enamored by your site for years now and I finally have a big picture to share!
I was driving home today and felt something on my arm. I looked down and just saw that it was a large bug. Startled, I pulled over and kicked out the hitchhiker but took a quick picture first before I sent him on his way. Can you identify this guy for me?
Thanks for the compliment. Your Leaf Footed Bug is Leptoglossus zonatus, and you may distinguish it from other members of the genus by the “two yellowish spots on the forward part of the pronotum” according to BugGuide.
Thank you so much for your quick response. Living in Florida I see tons of bugs. I hope to send more pictures in the future!!
Letter 11 – Leaf Footed Bug
Subject: Can you help?
Location: Rockledge, Florida
August 20, 2015 10:29 am
Hello! I just caught this bug on my deck this afternoon in central Florida. Looking at the site it looks very similar to the Western Conifer Seed bug, but wondering if that is accurate or if this is an Eastern variety or something closer to an assassin bug?
It does fly. About 3/4″ long. Really super cool and would love to know some more about it!
You are quite astute. While this is not a Western Conifer Seed Bug, it is a member of the same genus. We believe it is the Leaf Footed Bug Leptoglossus zonatus because of this BugGuide description: “Two yellowish spots on the forward part of the pronotum are distinctive. Also has a zigzagging white band across the wings (like some other species). Expansions of the hind tibiae are also much larger and more jagged than most other species.”
Letter 12 – Leaf Footed Bug
Subject: Can’t seem to figure this one out!
Location: Los Angeles area
August 15, 2016 7:32 pm
I found this guy on my pool deck. I live in the Los Angeles area and I spotted him on August 15, 2016. He is a cute little guy that flies ando crawles.
This Leaf Footed Bug is Leptoglossus zonatus, a species that can be identified, according to BugGuide, by: “Two yellowish spots on the forward part of the pronotum are distinctive. Also has a zigzagging white band across the wings (like some other species). Expansions of the hind tibiae are also much larger and more jagged than most other species.”
Thanks so much, I have been up all night trying to find him. I narrowed it down a bit, but thank you for zeroing in on him. They all look so different. This guy’s fancy and extra colorful!
Thank you for responding so quickly!
I just love what you do. Thanks for helping me with my curiosity of life’s little creatures.
Letter 13 – Leaf Footed Bug
Subject: Western conifer seed bug?
Location: Gilbert, Arizona
November 6, 2016 2:53 pm
I at first thought assassin bug.
I went through and most images had a picture of a similar looking insect but without the leaf shaped skeleton on the legs.
Until I found one. I read the article and I’m now unsure if it truly is a Western conifer seed bug or not.
How do I tell?
Do they bite (pierce) you if held?
Do they carry any diseases or viruses?
I did not touch it.
Signature: Michael M. Petrovich
The reason you mistook this Leaf Footed Bug, Leptoglossus zonatus, for a Western Conifer Seed Bug, Leptoglossus occidentalis, is that they are members of the same genus. They can be identified, according to BugGuide, by: “Two yellowish spots on the forward part of the pronotum are distinctive. Also has a zigzagging white band across the wings (like some other species). Expansions of the hind tibiae are also much larger and more jagged than most other species.” It is possible they might bite if carelessly handled. This Leaf Footed Bug is not known to carry any diseases or viruses that affect humans, but BugGuide notes: “potential vector of diseases in corn.”
Letter 14 – Leaf Footed Bug
Subject: Found These on Yucca
Location: Garland, Texas
June 26, 2017 6:19 pm
We found these bugs on our Yucca that recently has been looking worse and worse. It looks like a stink bug but not certain.
This is a Leaf Footed Bug in the genus Leptoglossus.
Letter 15 – Leaf Footed Bug
Subject: Pomegranate bug
Location: North Phoenix Arizona
August 19, 2017 3:31 pm
Hi! I was taking pictures of my dad’s overgrown pomegranate tree yesterday and looked at the pictures more closely today to find a bug that I can’t identify with my google searches. Had I noticed it when I was taking he pictures I would have tried to get a better picture! I’ve nicknamed him Mickey.
This is a Leaf Footed Bug in the genus Leptoglossus from the family Coreidae, and all members of the family feed on plants, including many garden crops. Leaf Footed Bugs use their proboscis to pierce the wall of a plant, on stems, leaves, flowers and/or fruits, and they feed by sucking nutrients. This has a detrimental effect on young growth which might become stunted. When they feed on fruits, they inject an enzyme that renders the vicinity around the bite rather discolored and unpalatable to humans. According to BugGuide: “Two yellowish spots on the forward part of the pronotum are distinctive” of Leptoglossus zonatus.