Twig Wilter: All You Need to Know for Healthy, Thriving Plants

folder_openHemiptera, Insecta
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Twig wilt is a common problem faced by gardeners and homeowners alike. It can be frustrating to see your beloved trees lose their vigor due to pests such as twig girdlers and twig pruners. These insects can cause damage to shade, nut, and fruit trees, leaving you with a weakened or unhealthy landscape. In this article, we’ll share all you need to know about twig wilt so you can take appropriate measures to protect your trees.

Twig girdlers, for instance, are long-horned beetles that lay eggs in twigs with diameters ranging from ¼ to ½ inch. The female beetle then girdles the twig, causing it to drop to the ground in late summer or early fall. The larvae overwinter in the fallen twigs, which is crucial information for controlling this pest effectively source.

Similarly, twig pruners are reddish-brown longhorn beetles with light tan markings. They lay their eggs in and around buds clusters near the tips of branches, but they require two years to complete their life cycle [source] ( Understanding these pests is vital to restore the health of your trees and to prevent further damage that may lead to serious consequences.

Overview of Twig Wilters

Twig Wilters are insects that can cause harm to your trees. These little pests can have a negative impact on the health and appearance of your trees.

There are several types of insects known as Twig Wilters. Two common species are the Twig Girdler and the Twig Pruner. These pests belong to the long-horned beetle family called Cerambycidae. You can find more about these species here and here.

To help you understand the difference between these species, let’s look at a comparison table:

Feature Twig Girdler Twig Pruner
Size About 1/2 inch long Similar to Twig Girdler
Color Grayish-brown Similar to Twig Girdler
Antennae Long Similar to Twig Girdler
Trees Affected Shade, nut, and fruit trees Similar to Twig Girdler

These pests lay their eggs in small twigs, and the larvae feed on the tree, causing damage. Here are a few characteristics you should be aware of:

  • Adult beetles are typically found on or near the affected tree.
  • Larvae often overwinter in the affected twigs that have fallen to the ground.
  • Twig Wilter damage can result in small branches accumulating on the ground or in some cases, dangling branch tips within a tree.

As a tree owner, you should be cautious of these pests and take preventive measures. Some methods to control Twig Wilters include:

  • Regularly inspect your trees for signs of infestation or damage.
  • Remove affected twigs when possible to reduce the chances of eggs hatching and new larvae causing further damage.
  • Maintain a healthy and diverse landscape to reduce the chances of attracting these pests.

By staying vigilant and following these tips, you can protect your trees and keep them healthy and looking beautiful.

Scientific Classification

Coreids and Twig Wilters

Twig Wilters belong to the Coreidae family, also known as coreids, which are part of the insect order Hemiptera. Coreids are a diverse group of bugs, and some species within this family are known as “twig wilters.” These insects are known for their tendency to cause wilting and damage to the twigs of various plants.

In general, coreids are characterized by:

  • Elongated bodies
  • Broad heads
  • Powerful mouthparts for piercing and sucking

Some common examples of plants affected by twig wilters include woody shrubs and trees.

Species Under the Spotlight

Two noteworthy species of twig wilters are Petascelis remipes and Carlisis wahlbergi. Both insects share similarities, but there are also unique features that distinguish them.

Feature Petascelis remipes Carlisis wahlbergi
Size Smaller Larger
Color Brownish-black Dark gray or black
Preferred host plants Deciduous trees and shrubs Broad-leaved trees and shrubs

These insects use their specialized mouthparts to puncture the plant tissue, causing damage to the host plant. Typical signs of twig wilter damage include:

  • Wilted and droopy twigs
  • Leaves turning yellow or brown
  • Early leaf drop

Both Petascelis remipes and Carlisis wahlbergi can cause serious damage to the affected plants if not managed properly. By understanding their unique features and host plants, you can better protect your garden or landscape from these pesky twig wilters.

African Distribution

Concentration in South Africa

The presence of Twig Wilter is quite noticeable in South Africa, specifically around the Gauteng region. You may find these unique plants in various parts of the province, providing a captivating sight for nature enthusiasts.

Occurrence in the Bushvelds

In addition to South Africa, Twig Wilter also thrives in the Bushveld regions of Africa. These expansive landscapes are home to an impressive variety of flora and fauna, including the remarkable Twig Wilter. Here are some features of Twig Wilter in the Bushvelds:

  • Exceptional adaptability to the region’s climate
  • Harmonious coexistence with other native vegetation

Recorded Sighting in Magodo

Recently, there has been a surprising recorded sighting of Twig Wilter in Magodo. This discovery has added to the diverse range of habitats where this unique plant can be found. To put things into perspective, a comparison table of the Twig Wilter’s presence in different African regions:

Region Concentration Notable Features
South Africa High Widespread occurrence
Bushveld Moderate Adaptability
Magodo Low Recent discovery

By exploring these distinct regions, you can witness the fascinating distribution of Twig Wilter across the African continent and understand how it adapts to different environments.

Garden Interaction

Impact on Gardens

In your garden, twig girdlers can have a noticeable effect. These beetle pests, also known as Oncideres cingulata, can cause damage to many hardwood trees1. The issue can be identified by small branches accumulating on the ground or clean-cut twigs within the trees2. The following are some of the impacts on gardens:

  • Damage to shade, nut, and fruit trees2
  • Aesthetic issues from dropped or hanging branches
  • Potential weakening of the tree structure

Big Legged Bugs in Gardens

Big legged bugs, also known as Acanthocephala, are another type of bug that you may encounter in your garden. These bugs are not the same as twig girdlers, but it’s good to be aware of their presence. They have the following characteristics:

  • Large, leaf-like hind legs3
  • Feed on plants, but also other insects3
  • Often considered beneficial in gardens due to their predatory nature3

Here is a comparison table to differentiate between Twig Girdlers and Big Legged Bugs:

Feature Twig Girdlers Big Legged Bugs
Size About 1/2″ long1 Varies by species3
Colors Grayish-brown1 Brown or greenish brown3
Host Hardwood trees1 Plants and other insects3
Type of damage Damages tree branches1 Eats plants and insects3

By understanding the characteristics and impacts of twig girdlers and big legged bugs in your garden, you can better monitor the health of your plants and trees.

Biology of Twig Wilters

Nymph to Winged Adult

You may be wondering about the life stages of twig wilters. As with many insects, twig wilters develop through several nymph stages before they become winged adults. These nymphs are typically smaller and more fragile than the adult form. As they grow, they undergo several molts, shedding their exoskeleton to accommodate their size.

In general, the reproductive cycle involves mating between males and females. The female will then lay her eggs, ensuring the continuation of the species. Each stage of development has its unique characteristics and challenges.

Adaptations and Behaviour

Being insects, twig wilters have their own set of adaptations that help them survive and thrive. Here are some key features of their biology:

  • Antennae: Used for navigating their environment, sensing food sources, and communication with other twig wilters.
  • Defensive secretion: Twig wilters can release a defensive substance when threatened, deterring potential predators.

These adaptations help twig wilters establish themselves in their preferred habitats and avoid common threats. Their behavior may vary based on different factors such as environmental conditions, availability of food, and interactions with other species.

Comparison with Beetles

Twig wilters are often confused with beetles, especially those that cause damage to trees, like twig girdlers and twig pruners. To clear up some confusion, let’s compare the key features of both groups:

Feature Twig Wilters Beetles
Antennae Long and thin Variable, often clubbed or serrated
Metamorphosis Incomplete (nymph to adult) Complete (larva to pupa to adult)
Defensive Secretion Yes Some species

As you can see, although there are similarities between twig wilters and beetles, they have distinct differences in their biology. It’s important to be aware of these factors, especially when dealing with potential tree damage, to ensure you’re addressing the correct issue and targeting the appropriate species.


In this article, we explored the fascinating world of Twig Wilters. Though they may seem small, these creatures play a significant role in the ecosystem of South Africa’s forests. By referring to a field guide to insects of South Africa, you can learn more about these fascinating insects and their unique behaviors.

You might be surprised to find out that Twig Wilters have a diverse array of characteristics. For example, their size and color can vary greatly. If you’re interested in further study, it’s helpful to use a field guide or other reputable resources so that you can accurately identify and understand the many nuances of these intriguing creatures.

It’s important to remember that, like all living beings, Twig Wilters are a crucial part of the ecosystem, and their presence contributes to the overall health of the environment. By learning more about them, you become better informed and aware of the intricate web of life that surrounds you in the natural world.

In summary, Twig Wilters are a fascinating and essential part of South Africa’s insect population. Your understanding and appreciation of these creatures can be greatly enhanced by referring to a field guide to insects of South Africa. So next time you’re out exploring South Africa’s forests, be sure to keep an eye out for these captivating insects and their unique behaviors.


  1. Twig Girdlers – Gardening Solutions 2 3 4 5

  2. Twig Girdler and Twig Pruner | MU Extension 2

  3. Big Legged Bug – Bug Guide 2 3 4 5 6 7

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, 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 – Twig Wilters from South Africa


Please help identify
Location: Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
March 21, 2011 6:10 am
I live in Johannesburg, South Africa, and as I was walking around my garden this morning I came upon a Gardenia bush full of these beetles. There seems to be 2 varieties, whether male and female, or whether different types I don’t know. Please help identify these.
Thank you!
Signature: Estelle

Twig Wilters

Hi Estelle,
These are Big Legged Bugs in the family Coreidae, and in South Africa and Australia, they are commonly called Twig Wilters.  We have received images of this species before from South Africa, and we tentatively identified them as
Carlisis wahlbergi, though the link we provided appears to be broken.  Now a web search produces some similar looking insects, but not an exact match, including the images on, especially this image.  One of your photos shows both immature and mature specimens.  The wingless nymphs will eventually grow into winged adults.  The common name Twig Wilter refers to the insect’s feeding habits.  A mouth designed for piercing and sucking enables the Twig Wilter to suck the fluids from young stems, causing them to wilt.  Though we have not had any luck finding a reference we can link to, there appears to be some information on Carlisis wahlbergi feeding on gardenias.

Twig Wilter

Letter 2 – Possibly Giant Twig Wilter nymph from South Africa


Please could you ID this bug for me? They appear on my gardenia bush every year in their hundreds then they just disappear leaving only a few and lots of eggs. They have a pungent smell so I’m sure they are some kind of stink bug. I have a lot of trees and birds in my garden but the birds don’t seem to bother them,is that because of their smell? Can you tell me if they do any harm to my Gardenia shrub as I try to avoid using insecticides if possible but it’s such a lovely plant I don’t want it eaten!!! Regards
Margaret Brislen [Johannesburg South Africa]

Hi Margaret,
In January 2007, we received a request for the identification of this True Bug, and the best we could do was to narrow it to the family Coreidae. You supplied us with a host plant, the gardenia, but we still cannot come up with a species. Sadly, there is an anemic database posted online to assist in the identification of South African insects. Coreid Bugs, also known as Leaf Footed Bugs or Big Legged Bugs, feed on plant juices, and are not considered beneficial. Your specimen is immature as it has no wings.

Update: Moments after posting this letter, we were researching the Millipede Assassin Bug, also from South Africa, and we believe we correctly identified this nymph as a Giant Twig Wilter, Carlisis wahlbergi.

Letter 3 – Twig Wilter Nymphs from South Africa


Subject: Twig wilter
Location: Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa
January 15, 2015 1:31 am
Searching the web this appears to be twig wilter, however I am not able to find an exact match. Can you please confirm and identify:
1) Type
2) Name
3) Are they harmful to man or plants
4) What do they eat
Many thanks
Signature: Cobus_KZN

TwigWilter Nymphs
TwigWilter Nymphs

Dear Cobus KZN,
We located a matching image of your TwigWilter nymphs from the family Coreidae on iSpot, but alas, they are only identified to the family level.  TwigWilters, AKA Leaf Footed Bugs, Big Legged Bugs or Flag Footed Bugs as they are known in North and Central America, do feed on plants and they can damage fruits and young twigs, but they are not dangerous to humans.  We hope to be able to provide you with a species name soon.

Letter 4 – Twig Wilters from South Africa


Bug colony in my garden
Location: Guateng South Africa
February 7, 2012 12:07 am
I live in Gauteng, South Africa. I recently stumbled upon this bug in my garden and was amazed to see that there is a whole colony of these in my garden.
I found them in a set of trees in my garden grouped together by their hundreds. I was surprised that I haven’t seen them before because of the shear amount of them in my garden.
There seems to be a male and a female bug or maybe two different species of bugs together. They seem to be just too happy to share the same tree.
Please tell me what these are, I would like to do some research on them seeing as they occupy my garden quite happily.
Thank you
Signature: Adriaan Olivier

Twig Wilters

Dear Adriaan,
Both of your insects are True Bugs in the family Coreidae, commonly called Big Legged Bugs or Leaf Footed Bugs in North America.  Many species in South Africa and Australia are known as Twig Wilters.  We cannot determine at this moment if they are the same species, but the wingless individual is a nymph.  Here is a link to a different species of Twig Wilter from South Africa.

Twig Wilter Nymph


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. 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.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

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

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