Leaf-footed bug nymphs and assassin bug nymphs are often mistaken for each other due to their similar appearance. However, they have distinct differences in their behavior and the roles they play in our gardens.
Leaf-footed bug nymphs, varying in color from deep orange to light brown, are known to be destructive pests to plants. Feeding on a wide variety of crops, they can cause damage to buds, flowers, fruits, and seeds. In contrast, assassin bug nymphs are beneficial predators, feasting on other insect pests and maintaining the natural balance within our ecosystems.
Despite the visual similarities, one easy way to distinguish these two nymphs is by their legs. While leaf-footed bug nymphs lack the leaf-shaped extension found on adult legs, they still exhibit a similar shape, which is absent in assassin bugs. By understanding the differences between these insects, gardeners can better appreciate and manage their presence in the garden.
Leaf Footed Bug Nymph Vs Assassin Bug Nymph
Leaf Footed Bug Nymph:
- Deep orange to light brown color
- No wings
- Flattened, leaf-shaped area on hind legs
Assassin Bug Nymph:
- Light color
- No wings
It’s important to note that while they look similar, assassin bugs are beneficial insects, as they feed on other insect pests. On the other hand, leaf-footed bugs can be pests themselves, damaging plants by sucking nutrients from them.
|Leaf Footed Bug Nymph
|Assassin Bug Nymph
|Deep orange to light brown
|Function in the ecosystem
Leaf Footed Bug Nymph:
- Develops into medium to large sized insects
- Feeds on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and ornamentals
- Causes damage to plants
Assassin Bug Nymph:
- Develops into predatory adults
- Feeds on other insect pests
- Beneficial for the ecosystem
In summary, leaf-footed bug nymphs and assassin bug nymphs may look alike, but their roles in the ecosystem are different. Knowing the key characteristics of each type of nymph will help you correctly identify them and manage them accordingly in your garden.
Biology and Behavior
Mouthparts and Feeding
Assassin bugs and leaf-footed bug nymphs are both insects with distinct mouthparts and feeding habits. Assassin bugs possess a proboscis, which is a long, needle-like mouthpart used for piercing and sucking. They inject digestive enzymes into their prey to liquefy their insides and then consume the resulting liquid. On the other hand, leaf-footed bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts, which they use to feed on plant juices and seeds. Here are some key differences in their feeding habits:
- Assassin bugs are predators that feed on other insects
- Leaf-footed bugs are herbivores that feed on plants
Predator and Prey Relationships
Both assassin bug nymphs and leaf-footed bug nymphs have unique relationships in their predator-prey interactions:
- Predators of other insects
- Help control pest populations
- Can be beneficial in gardens due to their pest control role
- Prey for other predators such as birds and spiders
- Can be considered pests as they damage plants by feeding on them
Assassin bugs and leaf-footed bug nymphs may seem similar at first glance, but their biology and behavior reveal key differences that can aid in distinguishing them. Understanding these contrasts is important for maintaining a healthy garden ecosystem and managing pest populations.
Significance in Agriculture and Gardens
Pest Status and Damage
Both leaf-footed bug nymphs and assassin bug nymphs can be found in agriculture and garden settings. However, their roles in these environments differ significantly.
Leaf-footed Bug Nymphs
- Leaf-footed bug nymphs feed on a variety of plants, including tomatoes, peaches, blueberries, beans, okra, and pecans.
- Damage caused by their feeding may result in yellow, hardened spots on fruits, as well as damage to buds, flowers, and seeds.
Assassin Bug Nymphs
- Assassin bug nymphs are beneficial insects in gardens and agriculture, as they feed on other insect pests.
While both nymphs may look similar, it is important to recognize that the assassin bug nymph plays a beneficial role, while the leaf-footed bug nymph is a pest.
|Leaf-footed Bug Nymph
|Assassin Bug Nymph
|Role in gardens
|Pest, damages plants
|Beneficial, feeds on insect pests
|Deep orange to light brown, no “leaf-footed” leg extensions
|Similar shape, with “leaf-footed” leg extensions
|Impact on fruits, nuts, and ornamentals
|Feed on them, causing damage
|No direct impact, contributes to pest control
By understanding the differences between leaf-footed bug nymphs and assassin bug nymphs, gardeners and agricultural professionals can better manage these insects in order to protect their plants and promote healthy, pest-free environments.
Control and Management Strategies
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach to controlling pests that strives to minimize environmental impact, conserve natural resources, and protect human health. In the case of both leaf-footed bug nymphs and assassin bug nymphs, this strategy may involve a combination of different control methods.
- Plant resistant varieties of fruits and vegetables, such as apples and tomatoes
- Rotate crops to disrupt the pest life cycle
- Encourage beneficial insects, such as spiders, flies, and caterpillars, to reduce the population of problem insects
- Provide habitat for birds and other predators as a part of the IPM ecosystem
Physical controls are also an essential part of an IPM strategy and may include methods such as:
- Use row covers to protect plants from both leaf-footed bug nymphs and assassin bug nymphs
- Remove covers periodically for pollination purposes
- Deploy traps to catch and monitor the population of these pests
|Leaf-footed Bug Nymph
|Assassin Bug Nymph
|Deep orange to light brown
|Varies by species
|No “leaf-footed” extensions
|Seeds and plant parts
|Commonly Found On
|Fruiting vegetables, nuts
|Pest or Beneficial
- Leaf-footed bug nymphs are plant pests, while assassin bug nymphs are beneficial predators
- Physical controls, like row covers, can help protect crops from both types of insects
- Both insects can be managed within an IPM strategy, which incorporates prevention, physical controls, and the encouragement of beneficial predators
There are various species of leaf-footed bugs (family Coreidae) and assassin bugs (family Reduviidae), which interact with a diverse range of plants. Some well-known species include:
- Leaf-footed bugs: Western Conifer Seed Bug, Squash Bugs
- Assassin Bugs: Wheel Bug, the Zelus Renardii
Leaf-footed bugs and assassin bugs can be found across different regions, primarily in gardens and forests.
- Found throughout the United States
- Commonly seen on ornamental plants, fruits, and seeds
- Widespread in North America
- Often inhabit gardens and areas with high insect populations
Both leaf-footed bugs and assassin bugs undergo a life cycle. However, the life stages and characteristics exhibit some distinct differences. Here’s a brief comparison table:
|Leaf-footed Bug Nymphs
|Assassin Bug Nymphs
|Orange to reddish-brown
|Varies, often with light-colored legs
|Normal elongated legs
|Long, with 4 segments
|Long, with 5 segments
|Piercing and sucking (needle-like)
|Mainly plants and seeds
|Other insect pests (predators)
Adult leaf-footed bugs and assassin bugs exhibit similar differences in characteristics as their nymphs.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Pros of Assassin Bugs for gardeners:
- Help control pest populations
- Reduce the need for chemical insecticides
Cons of Leaf-footed Bugs for gardeners:
- Feed on plants, causing potential damage
- May require control measures like barriers or insecticides
Both leaf-footed bugs and assassin bugs can overwinter, ensuring their survival through colder months. While leaf-footed bugs typically overwinter as adults in protected places such as leaf litter, assassin bugs utilize various stages of development during this period.
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 – Coreid Bug Nymph
Can you help me ID this turtle-backed bug from Houston TX? I love his red feet and antenna.
Aerlice C. LeBlanc
The bug on the windshield is an immature Coreid Bug, also known as a Leaf-Footed or Big-Legged Bug. Sorry, we can’t give a species. The red bug in a later email is an immature Assassin Bug in the genus Zelus.
Letter 2 – Leaf Footed Bug Nymph: Acanthocephala species
Subject: What is this?
Location: Greenville, SC
June 23, 2013 10:41 pm
I can’t tell what kind of bug this is. After doing a little research online I started to think it could possibly be a wheel bug nymph. After taking a better look, the fanned part of the back legs, the narrower torso and all black color are leading me to believe it might not be a wheel bug nymph. I found it on my front door late at night. Thanks.
Letter 3 – Cactus Coreid Bug Nymphs
So, we recently discovered these bugs invading a prickly pear cactus near our front door. They sort of resemble an assassin bug, or agave bug. Could they be nymphs? Thanks for the help!
These are immature Cactus Coreid Bugs, Chelinidea vittiger. BugGuide has information and images of the adults.
Letter 4 – Giant Twig Wilter from South Africa: Adult and Nymphs
Unidentified Grasshopper like insect
May 1, 2010
I found these strange looking insects in my garden this morning, never seen anything like them before.
There are obviously male and females in the picture, I just can’t seem to phathom out which is which.
Jaco van der Merwe
Gauteng, South Africa
I have subsecuently found it on your site as the Giant Twig Wilter”
Your insects are Big Legged Bugs or Leaf Footed Bugs in the family Coreidae, and there is a winged adult with five immature nymphs that appear to be in various stages of growth. We checked your Giant Twig Wilter suspicion, and we believe it is a related but different species. The nymph from February 2008 we identified as possibly a Giant Twig Wilter, Carlisis wahlbergi. Our current web search on the Beetles in the Bush website revealed what appears to be an adult of a different species, Petascelis remipes, identified as a Magodo or Giant Twig Wilter, but it is also in the family Coreidae, an identification matched on the Beetles of Africa website. Your adult insect matches an image on the Field Guide to Insects of South Africa that is identified as Carlisis wahlbergi, back to our original identification in 2008, and this information is provided: “Identification: Medium-sized (body length 20-26 mm). boldly marked, with tan and black fore wings, and white- and black-banded antennae and abdominal margins. Hind legs enlarged. Biology: As many as 9,000 individuals recorded on single Gardenia volkensii shrubs, which then failed to flower but did not wilt. Can spray defensive secretion up to 15 cm. Habitat: Bushveld and gardens.” This exactly matches our own identification in January 2007. Alas, the link we used to identify it is no longer active.
Letter 5 – Leaf Footed Bug Nymphs
What is it
Location: Central Fl
April 3, 2012 11:17 am
Had a bunch of these take over some of my squash plants. Any idea what they are??
We found a matching photo on BugGuide, but alas, the Leaf Footed Bugs were not identified to the species or genus levels. Leaf Footed Bugs feed on the juices of plants, and we don’t expect their presence on your squash plants will have beneficial results for your crop. As we kept searching, we decided to try the genus Leptoglossus and we found a photo of immature Leptoglossus phyllopus on BugGuide that look like your insects. According to BugGuide: “Nymphs and adults suck juices from a variety of plants. This bug is particularly noted as a pest on citrus, on which it causes premature fruit drop, but also known to damage many other crops and ornamental plants. Apparently most common on thistle in FL, and on Yucca in KS.”
Letter 6 – Immature Leaf Footed Bug: Spartocera fusca
2 pictures for you
I work at a nature center in Miami, florida and one of the children visiting found this bug. We looked in all of our reference books and could not find it. Sounds like you’re very busy, but no rush!
Often immature Hemipterans look very different from the adult because of coloration. We believe, based on adult photos on BugGuide, that this is a Corecoris fuscus nymph, one of the Coreid Bugs.
Update: May 11, 2019
We just received our second submission of this species, and it has come to our attention that we need to make changes to this original posting of the species. First, the species name is now recognized as Spartocera fusca, which we realized because our link still took us to the posting we used for the 2006 identification. Additionally, now BugGuide has images of immature individuals which confirm our original identification. According to BugGuide: “Breeds on Solanum americanum and other plants. Early instar nymphs are gregarious.”
Letter 7 – Leaf Footed Bug Nymph
Subject: Pretty spider with metallic blue butt
Location: North New Jersey, USA (woodsy and mountainous region)
July 11, 2016 5:15 pm
This seemingly friendly spider/ or insect was crawling on me and despit my attepts to put it back on the grass, it kept finding its was back on to me over a period of hours.
Its truly gorgeous. It moved slowly, seemed alert to sounds around it and may have hopped a little.
i’ve looked everywhere on line but could not identify it.
Our previous posting was of a Leaf Footed Bug nymph in the same genus, Acanthocephala, and most likely of the same species, Acanthocephala terminalis. Your northern location has only one member of that genus reported, and it is A. terminalis. Your difficulty in finding an identification is due in large part to the fact that immature insects can look very different than adults from the same species, and most identification guides only depict adults of the species. We can’t help but to notice that there appears to be paint on your skin. Perhaps something in the paint created an odor that attracted this Leaf Footed Bug nymph. According to BugGuide, the habitat is “shrubs in woodlands/wood edges; fields and meadows” which agrees with your description of your location.
Thank you so much for clearing that up!
I greatly appreciate your time and consideration!
Letter 8 – Leaf Footed Bug Nymph
Subject: What’s this guy called?
Geographic location of the bug: Driftwood, TX
Time: 10:12 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello 🙂 We round this guy in the kitchen on May 10 (and took him outside before snapping a photo). What is he? Thanks!
How you want your letter signed: Curious
This is a recently hatched Leaf Footed Bug nymph in the genus Acanthocephala. Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.
Letter 9 – Unknown Coreid Bug Nymph
Hi i was just wondering what this bug is and wether or not it could be doing any harm to my lime tree? Either directly or indirectly by attracting aphids or something?
This is a Coreid or Leaf Footed Bug Nymph. Since you neglected to provide us with a location, and since correctly identified nymphs are difficult to locate online, we are unable to take this identification to either genus or species level. Coreid Bugs suck juices from Plants, generally fruits and seeds. It will not attract aphids.
Letter 10 – Leaf Footed Bug Nymph, we believe
Subject: Assassin Bug Nymph?
Location: Lakeland, Fl
December 19, 2012 8:33 pm
I’ve have been looking for quite some time and have searched every known combination of ”Search” words to look for this BEAUTIFUL insect. Perhaps you can help? I saw someone ask about ”Assassin Bug Nymph” but it doesn’t look quite the same. I’m no expert and figured I would ”bug” you.
Much appreciated! Thank you!
This is a True Bug nymph, however, we don’t believe it is an Assassin Bug, though that is a very good guess. We believe this is a Leaf Footed Bug nymph in the family Coreidae. It looks very similar to this Acanthocephala nymph that is pictured on BugGuide.
Thank you for your response. I have to say that I normally wouldn’t get so close to creatures like this, especially spiders, I just had to take this picture and find out what it was. I have never seen a creature that put me in total awe. The creature opened me up to a whole new world of beauty.
Again, thank you for your response and hard work. You have a supporter for life and a new person to donate.
Thank you Phil. You are most kind.
Letter 11 – Possibly Leaf Footed Bug Nymph from South Africa
Subject: Need insect identified
Location: East London, Eastern Cape, south Africa
January 14, 2013 3:51 am
I’m a huge entymology enthusiast, and I’ve been doing some photography and research of insects around my garden
I found this bizarre insect on a a lemon tree, it’s the middle of summer here, and I’m in East London South Africa
The weather was overcast, and after I got these two decent pictures, it started to rain. I would appreciate any help with regards to what this thing is, name, family, anything, my insect guide has no information on it, and I can’t find anything on Google as I have no leads. Thanks in advance!!
Signature: Simon Robinson
This is a True Bug in the suborder Heteroptera, and we strongly suspect it is in the family Coreidae, the Leaf Footed Bugs or Big Legged Bugs. It appears to be an immature nymph, which might make identification to the species level more difficult as most identification guides contain images of adult insects and nymphs can change appearance prior to maturity. The head on view might also complicate identification to the species level. We will continue to research this when time permits. Please let us know if you learn anything additional.
Yes, that would make the most sense! As I have many species of Coreidae in my garden, mainly Carlisis Wahlbergi (According to my insect guide, they are found in Limpopo, but I think it’s perfectly possible for them to have migrated down here, as there are many on The Gardenia) There are also few Holopterna alata and Anoplocnemis. and I agree that it is most likely a nymph of sorts, but from the nymphs I’ve seen, it doesn’t look related to any of the above mentioned. Otherwise, I appreciate the help!
I did some more research of my own, and I have suspicions that this may be the nymph of Leptoglossus Membranaceus, as that species of Coreidae, is a pest to Citrus trees, among other plants, given the fact that this was found on my lemon tree, I’d say the chances are pretty high that it is. But due to an inability to find pictures of a nymph of this species, I’m afraid I cannot say for sure. This has been lots of fun, and I hope we can come to a conclusion soon!
Letter 12 – Probably Coreid Nymph from Australia
Subject: Unknow insect Townsville
Location: Townsville, Australia
February 27, 2013 7:04 am
Took this photo of this insect this morning on a Passion Fruit Vine.
Signature: Your Sincerly
We are guessing your name is André as that is the name copyrighted on the photograph. This is an immature Heteropteran or True Bug and nymphs can be difficult to identify with certainty as they are not as well documented as adults. We suspect this is a Coreid Nymph from the family Coreidae, and the members of the family are often called Big Legged Bugs or Leaf Footed Bugs. Knowing the host plant is a Passion Fruit Vine may assist in our identification.
Letter 13 – Leaf Footed Bug Nymphs in the genus Narnia
Subject: cant identify
Location: calabasas, california
September 15, 2013 8:51 am
Hi and thanks for looking at this unusual bug that has been living on my cactus.
they dont seem to be bothering the plant but they have multiplied.
After a bit of searching, we are confident that we have identified your immature Leaf Footed Bugs as being in the genus Narnia. Our first clue came from the Sonoran Desert Naturalist website where we found images of a pair of adult mating Narnia species. According to the site: “Like all true bugs Narnia feed by inserting a thin, tubular proboscis through the plant cuticle and into more nutritious tissues below. The preferred target for feeding is developing seeds that are rich in proteins. Through the straw-proboscis the bugs can take in only liquid food – if the point reached by the piercing proboscis is dry the bug will inject some digesting saliva first and then reimbibe the partly digested material. In so doing they damage or kill the developing seeds and may introduce fungi or other rot-causing pathogens. Damaged seeds may appear dark or shriveled and have lower germination success.” Since the Sonoran Desert Naturalist site only provided a photo of an adult, we found a photo of a nymph on BugGuide that matches your specimens. According to BugGuide: “nymphs and adults feed on fruit and joints of prickly pear cactus (Platyopuntia and Cylindropuntia spp.)”
Letter 14 – Leaf Footed Bug Nymph
Subject: Quite colorful
Location: South central Louisiana
June 12, 2014 9:18 pm
I found this “deadly” looking creature on the hood of my truck which was parked underneath a large water oak Thursday June 12, 2014. I live in New Iberia, Louisiana which is south central about thirty miles from the coast. It has red and blue on its legs and a yellowish spot on it’s back. Although I am extremely allergic to ant and wasp venom I didn’t kill it nor did I get a better photo and risk anaphylactic shock. Thank you for the great website!
This is an immature Leaf Footed Bug, probably in the genus Acanthocephala. We have not heard of them biting people, but since they have mouths designed to pierce plants and suck juices, we imagine it is possible to be bitten. See BugGuide for more information.
Letter 15 – Coreid Nymphs
Subject: Milkweed bug?
Location: Altadena, CA
April 27, 2015 7:15 am
Hi there, I found these guys on a myrtle stem was wondering if they are milkweed assassin youngsters or something else? Thanks so much!
These are definitely not Assassin Bugs, which are predators. Assassin Bug nymphs soon disperse from one another shortly after hatching. Plant feeding species like Coreid Bugs, commonly called Leaf Footed Bugs or Big Legged Bugs, tend to stay near one another, feeding in groups. We will attempt a species identification, though we are guessing them to be in the genus Leptoglossus.
Letter 16 – Leaf Footed Bug Nymph
Location: Dyersburg Tennessee
July 11, 2016 4:18 pm
Hi my mom found this bug and thinks it’s rare bug..she nor anyone she has shown knows what it is and can’t find another like it online..please help
Signature: Jodi from chicago
This is an immature bug, and available identification images are generally of the adults, so let mom and friends know why they had so much difficulty. We believe this Leaf-Footed Bug nymph is in the genus Acanthocephala, probably Acanthocephala terminalis based on the range according to BugGuide sightings.
Letter 17 – Coreid Nymph from Brazil
Subject: Brazil insect
Location: Ilha Grande – Rio de Janeiro
April 2, 2017 9:14 am
I found this insect in the morning, very close to a forest area here in Brazil on an island called “Ilha Grande” in Rio de Janeiro, it’s early autumn. Apparently he was not looking for anything special.
This is an immature True Bug in the family Coreidae, a group commonly called Leaf Footed Bugs, Big Legged Bugs or Flag Footed Bugs because “hind tibiae in some have leaf-like expansions” according to BugGuide. Your individual has expansions on the front legs as well. It might be a nymph from the genus Acanthocephala.
Letter 18 – Leaf-Footed Bug Nymphs
Location: City of Central outside of Baton Rouge, LA
May 7, 2017 2:17 pm
Just came across these and from a distance I thought they were newly hatched spiders but upon a closer look snapped with my iPhone they don’t appear to be spiders but more ant like for someone like myself that’s never seen them. I haven’t a clue as you’ve probably guessed, any ideas?
These are immature, recently hatched Leaf-Footed Bug nymphs, probably in the genus Leptoglossus, like the ones in this BugGuide image. This was the next image we were going to post last week before Daniel took ill with pneumonia, leading to five days in the hospital.
Letter 19 – Big Legged Bug Nymph
Subject: Mystery Bug
Geographic location of the bug: Endicott NY
Time: 10:21 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I’ve tried looking on a number of websites but I haven’t made any progress. Any ideas? It jumped from somewhere onto my brother-in-law and then it seemed satisfied to be on an exposed root. Thank you!
How you want your letter signed: Peter Fabian
Letter 20 – Leaf Footed Bug Nymphs
Subject: Assasin or Leaf-Footed?
Geographic location of the bug: Cape Coral, FL
Time: 07:32 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I’m trying to decipher if these are assassins or Leaf-Footed, I read that assassins can be carriers of Chagas Disease. If we have assassins in our garden I want to know about it.
Thank you for your time and sharing your knowledge.
How you want your letter signed: Please identify this bug.
These are Leaf Footed Bug nymphs, probably in the genus Leptoglossus, and though they are harmless to you, they will feed on the tomatoes . Additionally, not all Assassin Bugs are a concern, though many will bite if carelessly handled. Only the Blood Sucking Conenose Bugs run the risk of carrying the pathogen that causes Chagas Disease, a condition that is relatively rare in North America. Chagas Disease is more of a concern in the tropics.
Thank you for your time. As I tried looking at various picture on the internet, I couldn’t identify these bugs because of the large dots on the back abdomen.
Letter 21 – Big Legged Bug Nymph
Subject: Need help identifying insect
Geographic location of the bug: North Carolina
Time: 10:07 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found this insect on my car and i have no idea what kind it is.
How you want your letter signed: Ginellie
This is an immature True Bug in the family Coreidae, commonly called the Leaf Footed Bugs or Big Legged Bugs. Based on this BugGuide image, we believe it is a first instar Big Legged Bug nymph in the genus Acanthocephala, meaning that it has just recently hatched. Later instar nymphs turn bluish-gray.
Letter 22 – Leaf Footed Bug Nymphs
Subject: Unknown insect
Geographic location of the bug: Princeton Jct., NJ
Time: 05:26 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: On a tomato in my home garden, my photo 10/14/21.
Two stages of same, obviously.
How you want your letter signed: Jan
We are relatively certain these are Leaf Footed Bug nymphs in the family Coreidae, but we are having difficulty nailing down the species.