The leaf-footed bug is a fascinating insect with distinctive features and behaviors. These plant-eating pests belong to the Coreidae family and are known for their unique leaf-like extensions on their hind legs. These interesting insects can be found in various gardens and landscapes, causing damage to fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Leaf-footed bugs are known to have piercing-sucking mouthparts, which they use to feed on plant parts, particularly seeds. Their diet includes a variety of plants such as tomatoes, peaches, blueberries, beans, okra, and pecans. When they feed on fruits, they can cause visible damage like yellow hardened spots on tomatoes. Recognizing and managing these bugs is essential to protect your plants from harm.
Apart from their plant-feeding habits, these bugs are also known for their size and striking appearance. Ranging from 1/2 to 3/4 inch in length, some species display contrasting colors and patterns. Being good flyers, leaf-footed bugs can quickly spread within a garden or landscape. As gardeners and homeowners, knowing more about these insects can help in maintaining the health of your plants and garden.
Leaf Footed Bug Basics
Identification and Appearance
- Shape: These bugs have a cylindrical body structure.
- Wings: They have wings with a distinct white line across the back.
- Antennae: Their antennae are lighter in color than the rest of the body.
|Cylindrical body, leaf-like hind legs
|Brown, white line across wings
|Similar to adults, but no leaf-like extensions
|Deep orange to light brown
Bug nymphs are immature forms of leaf-footed bugs. They are similar in shape to the mature bugs1 but:
- No hind leg extensions.
- Their color ranges from deep orange to light brown.
- They don’t have wings.
These bugs undergo several generations a year.
Habitat and Range
Leaf-footed bugs feed on a variety of plants, including:
- Fruiting vegetables.
They have piercing-sucking mouthparts, which enable them to feed on different plant parts, particularly seeds2. Some common plants they feed on are tomatoes, peaches, blueberries, beans, okra, and pecans3.
Damage and Impact
Effects on Garden Plants, Fruits, and Vegetables
Leaffooted bugs can cause significant damage to garden plants, fruits, and vegetables. These insects have piercing-sucking mouthparts, allowing them to feed on plant parts, particularly seeds1. Some common garden plants affected by these pests include:
Effects on Ornamental Plants and Trees
Besides causing damage to garden plants, fruits, and vegetables, leaffooted bugs also feed on ornamentals and are known to infest magnolias, palm trees, and pomegranates5. While the extent of damage may vary depending on the plant species, these pests can weaken the overall health of ornamental plants and trees2. Infestations can also lead to aesthetic damage, making the plants less attractive and potentially reducing their value.
Leaffooted Bugs Comparison Table:
|Garden Plants & Fruits
|Ornamental Plants & Trees
Prevention and Management
Leaf footed bug infestations can be managed by manual removal of both adults and nymphs from infested plants. Handpicking can be an effective method if done early in the spring when their populations are low. However, it can be time-consuming and is not suitable for large-scale infestations. For a quicker, non-toxic method to prevent bugs from reaching plants, row covers can be applied.
Natural Control Options
Several beneficial insects play an essential role in controlling leaf footed bug populations:
- Assassin bugs: Known for their predatory behavior, they feed on various pest insects, including leaf footed bug nymphs.
- Spiders: Arachnids are natural predators of many small insects, including leaf footed bugs.
- Ladybugs: Effective in controlling aphids but may also prey on leaf footed bug eggs if other food sources are scarce.
Additionally, some birds and flies can contribute to reducing the pest population.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Implementing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies can be an effective way to prevent and control leaf footed bug infestations. IPM includes:
- Monitoring: Regularly inspect your plants for any signs of leaf footed bug infestation and pay attention to their life cycles.
- Physical barriers: Use row covers or netting to protect vulnerable plants from invasions.
- Biological control: Encourage beneficial insects by providing habitat and avoiding broad-spectrum insecticides.
- Cultural practices: Maintain a healthy garden by pruning, weeding, and watering appropriately. This can discourage infestations.
- Chemical control: Apply targeted insecticides such as neem oil only when necessary and follow label instructions for best results.
Pros and Cons of IPM:
|Requires regular monitoring
|Sustainable pest management
|May take longer to achieve results
|Reduces pesticide use
|Can be labor-intensive
There are several insecticides that can help control leaf-footed bugs. These include:
- Pyrethroids: effective and commonly used but can kill beneficial insects
- Neonicotinoids: often used as a soil drench or foliar spray
- Carbamates: typically used sparingly due to their broad-spectrum nature
Some integrated pest management strategies recommend using selective insecticides over broad-spectrum ones to preserve beneficial insects.
Example: A gardener might choose a pyrethroid insecticide as their first option since it’s effective and widely available.
|Effective and commonly used
|Can kill beneficial insects
|Available as soil drench or foliar spray
|Can harm bees and other pollinators
|Broad-spectrum, sparingly used
Insecticidal soap is a safer alternative to traditional insecticides. It works by breaking down the bug’s exoskeleton, causing them to dehydrate and die.
- It’s made from fatty acid salts and is biodegradable
- Effective against leaf-footed bug nymphs
One downside is that insecticidal soap must come into direct contact with the pests to be effective. This means thorough coverage is required during application.
Example: An organic gardener might use insecticidal soap as part of their pest control strategy.
- Eco-friendly and biodegradable
- Targets leaf-footed bug nymphs
- Must come into direct contact with pests
- Thorough coverage required during application
Overwintering and Environmental Factors
Shelter and Hiding Places
Leaffooted bugs overwinter by seeking shelters in various places, such as:
- Tree cracks
- Peeling bark
These hiding places offer protection against harsh winter conditions. In some warmer states like California and Florida, they can be found in palm fronds as well.
Weather Conditions and Climate Impact
Leaffooted bugs are very much influenced by weather conditions. Mild winters can favor their survival, allowing them to lay over 200 eggs during a two-month period in the spring. In fall, they start looking for shelters to overwinter.
Climate impacts on leaffooted bugs:
- Milder winters: Higher survival rates and population growth.
- Harsher winters: Lower survival rates and decreased populations.
By understanding their overwintering habits and environmental factors, we can better manage these pests in our gardens and fields.
Disease Transmission and Fungal Yeast
Leaf-footed bugs, specifically those from the genus Leptoglossus, have piercing-sucking mouthparts which they use to feed on a variety of host plants, such as tomatoes, peaches, and blueberries. In the process, they can transmit fungal yeast, like the Eremothecium coryli, to their host plants. This fungal yeast utilizes the insect’s excrement and digestive enzymes to break down and grow on grains.
Some negative effects of these bugs include cosmetic damage to fruits and other plant parts. However, they also have natural enemies that help control their population, maintaining a balance in the ecosystem.
Unique Species Variants
There are several unique species variants within the leaf-footed bug family. One common characteristic is the flattened, leaf-shaped hind legs that give them their name. Additionally, many species have a distinctive white stripe across their wings, such as Leptoglossus phyllopus.
A comparison of two species includes:
|White stripe on wings
|Leaf-like hind legs
|Broad, brown hind legs
Some common features of leaf-footed bugs include:
- Leaf-like extensions on hind legs
- Piercing-sucking mouthparts
- Various host plants
- Transmission of fungal yeast
As they grow from nymphs to adulthood, these insects shed their exterior casing several times. This process, called molting, is crucial for their growth and development. In their nymph stage, they resemble the adult form but lack wings and the leaf-shaped hind legs. Once they reach adulthood, they develop wings and take on the distinct leaf-footed features.
Overall, while leaf-footed bugs can cause damage to plants and transmit diseases, they are a natural part of the ecosystem, and their population is kept in check by their natural predators.
In conclusion, the leaf-footed bug is a plant-eating insect found in various regions. They can be identified by their unique leaf-like extensions on their hind legs.
Leaf-footed bugs come in different colors, such as dark brown or orange. Their appearance may vary between species. To better understand the key features and characteristics of the leaf-footed bug, here are some bullet points:
- Plant-eating insects
- Leaf-like extensions on hind legs
- Good flyers with noisy buzzing sounds
- May give off bad odor when disturbed
- Various colors and patterns
When discussing leaf-footed bugs, a comparison between two species can help showcase their differences. For example:
|Magnolia Leaf-Footed Bug
|Eastern Leaf-Footed Bug
|Dark brown color
|Brown or orange color
|Lacks white stripe
|White line on wings
|Found on magnolia trees
|Found on various plants
Remember, the leaf-footed bug is just one example of the many fascinating insects inhabiting our world.
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 – Tip Wilter from South Africa
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
October 22, 2010 7:47 am
I found this guy in my garden on a rose bush. There were two of them close to one another, I moved this one to get a pic and then when I wanted to return it (to it’s mate) it flew away. It was probably just over an inch in length.
I just sent in a request earlier, but have found the answer.
The “orange antennae” is how I got to the identification. Should probably add that key to my pic if you’d like to add it.
It is a leaf footed bug,
Arthropods (Arthropoda) » Insects (Insecta) » True Bugs, Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids and Allies (Hemiptera) » True Bugs (Heteroptera) » Leaf-footed Bugs (Coreidae) » Acanthocephala
True Bugs in the family Coreidae are often called Leaf Footed Bugs or Flag Footed Bugs, though a third common name, Big Legged Bug, seems most appropriate in your case. Those thoracic protuberances are quite impressive. We haven’t the time to research a species name at the moment, but there are some unmistakable similarities to the genus Acanthocephala from North America, including the Acanthocephala confraterna pictured on BugGuide. Just before hitting post, we did a quick search and found images of a Tip Wilter, Anoplocnemis curvipes, on the Biodiversity Explorer website that closely resembles your insect.
P.S. We didn’t notice your second email until we began to research this posting.
Letter 2 – Immature Leaf Footed Bugs: Spartocera fusca
Subject: Unidentified bugs
Geographic location of the bug: Pinellas Park, Florida
Time: 09:04 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found these on one plant in my garden, congregating as you see them in the photos. We had a torrential rainstorm, and they were still there the next day. I’m curious as to what they are.
How you want your letter signed: Susan Heidicker Brown
These are immature Leaf Footed Bugs with no specific common name. They are known only by the scientific name Spartocera fusca. We have but a single other posting of this species on our site, and that one was submitted 13 years ago. Your submission is a catalyst for us to update that posting as it appears that the site where we originally identified it, BugGuide, no longer recognizes the name we researched in 2006, Corecoris fuscus, however, the comments dating back to 2005 use that original name. Furthermore, our identification in 2006 was speculative as there were only images of adults pictured on BugGuide at that time, and our previous posting, like your submission, is of immature insects. Your images are especially valuable to us as they depict several different instars representing the growth and changes the nymphs undergo as they approach maturity. According to BugGuide: “Breeds on Solanum americanum and other plants. Early instar nymphs are gregarious.“
Letter 3 – Tip Wilters from South Africa
Subject: Weird insect infestation on one of my trees!
Location: Sandton, johannesburg
January 12, 2017 10:07 am
Hi there, one of my small trees in my garden is suddenly covered in millions of black insects varying in size from quite large ( about the size of a cricket) to really small. They appear to have hatched from a muddy nest in the bottom of my bird bath which sits under the tree.
They are really quite scary looking and there are literally hundreds of them just sitting on the branches all of the tree- just need to know if they are in any way dangerous ( to my children or the tree?)
It seems you have multiple different instars or stages of Tip Wilters, True Bugs in the family Coreidae, most likely Carlisis wahlbergi based on research we have done in the past. As their name implies, Tip Wilters cause worts to wilt after the insects use their piercing mouthparts to suck the fluids from the plants upon which they are feeding. While it is possible that a large Tip Wilter might bite a child if it is carelessly handled, they are not considered dangerous. The damage they do to the plants is another story, and large quantities of Tip Wilters, which you seem to have, may stunt the growth of your plants.
Letter 4 – Immature Leaf Footed Bugs, in our opinion
Nymphs in a huddle on tomato plant
May 9, 2011 1:51 pm
I’m in New Orleans and have asked a few gardener types to help identify this bug but some people think it’s the leaf footed stink bug, others say it’s the assassin bug. Will you please help me to identify it? 2 black dots on the back side & they like to be in a huddle.
Signature: Many thanks in advance, Jennifer
Immature Hemipterans can be quite difficult to identify with any certainty, but we believe these are immature Leaf Footed Bugs in the genus Leptoglossus. They match this image on BugGuide. As you can see from the BugGuide information page, there are several species possibilities in your vicinity.
Letter 5 – Western Leaf-Footed Bugs
Beetles Covering All My Junipers!
July 3, 2010
These bugs/beetles showed up a couple of days ago. They are covering almost all of the bush and they are on all of the junipers, but on the Pinon Pine trees. At first glance from a distance we thought they were bees,. They sometimes fly up a ways and hover around the juniper bush and then land again. I can’t see them actually eating on the leaves or berries. We seem to have two types of native junipers on the property. One has blueish berries, and the other doesn’t have berries and is more scraggly, I think they are both California Junipers.
Randy & Leilani
California High Desert Mountains
Hi Randy and Leilani,
Your insect is one of the Leaf-Footed Bugs in the genus Leptoglossus. We believe it is Leptoglossus clypealis based on information posted to BugGuide, which indicates: “A spine extending forwards from the tip of the nose (technically known as the tylus) distinguishes this species” though it is somewhat difficult to make out this physical feature in your photograph. BugGuide does not provide a common name for the species, and the remarks include: “Can be a pest in pistacio and almond orchards because it feeds on the nuts.” If we turn to our print sources for information, there is a species called the Western Leaf-Footed Bug, Leptoglossus clypealus, mentioned by Charles Hogue in his wonderful book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin. We suspect that the two species are the same, but BugGuide does not list the Hogue spelling as an alternative. Hogue writes: “It is usually found on junipers in the more arid eastern portions of the basin.” There is no indication in either Hogue or BugGuide as to what the insects feeds upon on the juniper. It is our own experience that the Western Leaf-Footed Bug feeds on the fruit of pomegranates and tomatoes, causing unsightly bruising of the fruit because of the digestive enzymes that are injected into the fruit when the insect feeds with its piercing and sucking mouthparts. According to the Illinois Natural History Survey website: “Although it may occur in large numbers, this species is normally not a serious pest. It can, however, damage pistachio and almond seeds when populations are large.” More information can be found on the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program website.
Letter 6 – Western Leaffooted Bug
Whats this bug?
My daughter found this bug walking down the side walk in Hemet California. Any idea what it is?
This is a Western Leaffooted Bug, Leptoglossus clypealus. It is often found on junipers.
Letter 7 – Unnecessary Carnage: Leaffooted Bug Dispatched with a 2 half cans of Insecticide!!!
Flying Insect with Chubby Ankles
Location: Richmond, Virginia
October 16, 2010 10:57 pm
This thing is about the size of a stinkbug, but it has what look like fleshy pouches on its two hind legs. It has a proboscis, and I don’t know what it eats.
It has wings and flies, but seems very resistant to Raid: Flying Insect Killer, and Raid: Ant & Roach Killer. I finally brought this thing down with about half a can of each. It didn’t die quickly, and twitched for about 15 minutes as I was drowning it in the spray.
I have nuked all entrances to my house with poison, yet these things seem to be the only things that still get in. Even spraying them directly doesn’t kill them quickly at all.
I’ve never seen them before I moved here, but have seen half a dozen of these things since I moved here about 2 months ago.
Signature: Raid Can’t Help Me
Rarely have we been so entirely horrified with a posting that we tag as Unnecessary Carnage. Generally, we lament the dispatching of a single beneficial or benign creature that has been swatted or stomped, but your letter has taken the term Unnecessary Carnage to an entirely new level. In your obsession to prevent a benign creature from entering your home, you have exposed yourself, your family, your pets, and the environment to poisons with potentially long term side affects that might not be fully understood. We can’t help but to be reminded of the publicity stunt pulled by B.T. Collins during the aerial spraying of malathion in California in the early 1980s in a feebly unsuccessful attempt to control the spread of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly. According to Time Magazine Online: “B.T. Collins, 40, director of the California Conservation Corps, gave the most dramatic demonstration of its safety: he drank a glassful of Malathion diluted with water to the concentration used in the spray.“ Malathion spraying failed to control the Mediterranean Fruit Fly, AKA The Med Fly, in the 1980s and your senseless spraying of insecticides will fail to keep insects from entering your home. Please take the time to educate yourself about the wonderful natural world around you and to learn about the harmful effects of introducing unnecessary chemicals to the environment. Your insect is a Leaf Footed Bug in the genus Leptoglossus, possibly the Western Conifer Seed Bug. These harmless creatures often enter homes as the weather begins to cool so that they can hibernate during the cold winter months. They will not harm you, your pets, your home or its furnishings. If you find their presence offensive, simply remove them and please desist with the excessive use of poisons.
I must apologize for my actions that I now realize were unnecessary against the harmless Leaf-Footed Bugs that have gotten inside my house over the last few months. I was scared that they would be dangerous given their size and appearance, but now that I know what they are, I won’t be afraid of them any more. Because of the information you’ve given me, I won’t kill them any longer when I find them, I’ll simply brush them back outside.
You’re welcome. In the interest of education, the indiscriminate use of pesticides might be very harmful to sensitive individuals as well as the environment.
Letter 8 – Passionvine Bug or Citron Bug from Philippines
Subject: Bug ID
Location: Manila, Philippines
August 8, 2014 1:18 am
Found the bug in the attached images in my yard in the Philippines. I would just like to know what it is so grateful for your help.
Signature: no preference
We began our research by locating a matching image on The Flying Kiwi where this Leaf Footed Bug in the family Coreidae is identified as a Citron Bug, Leptoglossus gonagra, from Viet Nam. We located another matching image on Forestry Images. Continued research revealed that the Citron Bug or Passionvine Bug is also represented on BugGuide which provides this information: “a widespread neotropical sp. ranging into the Gulf states (FL-TX) & MO; also widespread in the tropical & subtropical regions of the Old World.”
Briliant Daniel, thanks for the speedy help.
Letter 9 – Probably Coreid Bug Hatchlings with Eggs
Aphids and egg-chain thingy
I noticed that you didn’t have any pictures of aphids that matched the ones I found on my key lime tree in Austin, TX, so I thought I would send them along. They wouldn’t be very exciting, except I think the egg chain along the middle of the leaf is really neat. I try to avoid bug carnage where possible, but for the sake of my future margaritas and key lime pies, I did have to murder all of the aphids shortly after the photo shoot. I love your site and consult it frequently.
These are not Aphids, but Hemipterans. We originally thought they might be Assassin Bug Hatchlings and if that was the case, they are beneficial insects not to be destroyed. We sought Eric Eaton’s input and he wrote back: “I’m pretty sure that this is actually some kind of leaf-footed bug in the family Coreidae, but I can’t tell from such tiny hatchlings. Assassin bugs don’t lay eggs in a line, as far as I know. Not sure where the image was shot, but I know that there are some great resources on coreids from Florida educational websites. Eric” If Eric is correct, and we suspect he is, then these are plant feeders and you probably made the right move eliminating them from the tree.
Letter 10 – Immature Leaf Footed Bugs from Costa Rica (with some politics for spice)
From Costa Rica – what’s this bug?
I just spent a delightful 45 minutes reading through your website trying to locate the identity of this bug I photographed in Dominical, Costa Rica. I wanted to tell you that I was actually emotional at the tender, insightful, kind, enlightened and brilliant way you respond to your inquiries. I thought, "wow, how is it we can live in a country where someone can have these characteristics with regard to insects, yet we cannot seem to vote in politicians who have the same character with regard to humans?" I know, this is not a political site – but it is rare to come across people who are so thought-provoking and all around compelling. I learned a GREAT deal about insects and your insight actually gave me more reverence for them than I had ever considered having. I’m definitely terrified of arachnids, but I spent some time looking at your specimens and realized, actually, they ARE quite beautiful. So I’ll squash my spider-squashing tendencies from here on out. Amazing how a little humanity and decency on your part can make such simple change in so many others. Excellent work, thanks for cheering me up on a bit of a dreary day. and on to the bug. No information to give but that I found them in a primary rainforest area. Let me know if you can identify!
Salt Lake city
Goodness Gracious Natasha,
We can’t help but respond to your letter. We try to keep our disdain for the current state of politics from bubbling to the surface on this website, but the bottom line is, our opinions continue to seethe. Though we vote in every election, national and local, hoping to make a difference, we have a long and solid history of not backing the winning candidate, especially in the most recent past. Lisa Anne’s more radical views can be found on our sister site, Steal This Sweater. Your insects are Coreid Bug Nymphs, also known as Leaf Footed Bugs. We are almost certain this is Thasus acutangulus or a very close relative.
Letter 11 – Immature Leaf Footed Bugs: genus Leptoglossus
Six legged reddish orange & black insect
July 23, 2009
I live in Southwest Louisiana. I have a small garden with cantaloupes in it. I have a bunch of nickle sized reddish orange & black six legged insects on the leaves. They don’t seem to be eating the leaves, but often are grouped together. I don’t know if they are doing good or harm, so I have not taken any action as far as pest control. I’ve looked all over the internet with no luck. Thank you for your help!
Amateur Gardner in LA
Dear Amateur Gardener,
After our initial short response (please don’t put us on blast for not giving you a complete response) we found a matching photo on BugGuide while researching information on Leptoglossus phyllopus, one of the Leaf Footed Bugs. You live within the range map, so we believe you may have this species or a member of the genus. Immature nymphs are often nearly impossible to properly identify unless they can be associated with the adults. In quantities, these may damage some of your produce, especially if they begin to attack ripening tomatoes since they secrete a saliva that could damage the fruit.
Letter 12 – Not Red Bug, but Coreid Bug from Costa Rica
Possibly Dysdercus red bug from Costa Rica
March 31, 2010
Love this site. I just saw a pale red bug shown that bears some resemblance to a bug I’ve been trying to identify here in Costa Rica. I first saw my bug on a hibiscus, but later also on other plants. I couldn’t find it on Bug Guide. Can you help me?
Mary B. Thorman
Highlands of south Pacific area of Costa Rica at edge of forest.
We did a cursory web search before we headed for the desert, and we drew a blank on this lovely Hemipteran. We agree that is is likely a Red Bug in the family Pyrrhocoridae, but we would not discount that it might be a Seed Bug in the family Lygaeidae. It sure looks like it might be a Cotton Stainer relative in the genus Dysdercus. Hopefully, one of our readers will be able to assist in this identification.