- UConn Home & Garden Education Center
- Leaf-footed BugCoreidae Family
- Leaf-footed Bug (Acanthocephala spp.)
- The stout and sturdy Leaf-footed Bug will fight with males of its own species, but takes flight at the first sign of any other danger.
- How to Manage Pests
- Pests in Gardens and Landscapes
- How to deal with stinkbugs and leaf-footed bugs
- Leaffooted Bugs
- Facts, Identification & Control
UConn Home & Garden Education Center
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There are several leaf-footed bugs that live in Connecticut. They are members of the order, Hemiptera, and in the true bug family, Coreidae. Leaf-footed bugs get their name from the flattened, leaf-like flare on the lower portion of the back legs or tibia. They are brown with white marks on the margins of their folded wings. They closely resemble an insect that vegetable gardeners are familiar with, the squash bug. The most important economically is the Western conifer seed bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis). A relatively new pest, it was first identified in Connecticut in 1985. They are relatively large bugs, up to one inch in length. Other leaf-footed bugs can be grayish to black.
Leaf-footed bugs feed on the flower, cones and seeds of many species. They are known to do damage to nut trees such as almond and pistachio. The conifer seed bug does most of its damage in conifer seedling operations. They have a long sucking mouthpart that pierces the flowers or fruit. This damage causes misshapen, unmarketable nuts.
Adults emerge in spring and feed on flowers and newly forming seeds. Soon they mate and lay eggs on host trees. The eggs hatch after about 10 days and the nymphs start feeding. There are five nymph stages, called instars before adulthood. It’s this nymph feeding that causes the most economic damage. They are adults by August and continue to feed through the fall. They overwinter as adults in protected areas including your house. There is only one generation per year.
This nuisance insect invades homes in late summer and early fall looking for a warm crevice to spend the winter. They can fly but are most often seen walking on windows and walls. They do not injure houseplants or bite humans, though their large size and slow flight around the house can be startling.
Control of leaf-footed bugs is not necessary. They are easy to catch because of their slowing metabolism. Once caught, they can be tossed outdoors to find somewhere else to stay for the winter. Be advised, these are members of the stink bug family. If held too long or crushed, they emit a foul odor.
Despite good cultural practices, pests and diseases at times may appear. Chemical control should be used only after all other methods have failed.
For pesticide information or other questions please call toll free: 877-486-6271.
Revised by UConn Home and Garden Education Center 2016.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Dean of the College, Cooperative Extension System, University of Connecticut, Storrs. The Connecticut Cooperative Extension System is an equal opportunity employer and program provider. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, Stop Code 9410, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964.
Fig. 1. Adult leaffooted bug, Leptoglossus clypealis. In recent years, you may have seen a strange “new” bug in your garden, especially on tomatoes and pomegranates. These insects may be leaffooted bugs. Although they are native to the western United States and not new to California, leaffooted bugs seem to be occurring more commonly in gardens. These distinctive bugs get their name from the small leaf-like enlargements on the hind leg (Figure 1). They are medium to large sized insects that prefer to feed on fruits and seeds and are often found in groups.
Recognizing leaffooted bugs
Adult leaffooted bugs are readily recognized by their characteristic hind legs. There are three common species of leaffooted bugs in California: Fig. 2. Eggs of leaffooted bugs, Leptoglossus sp. on a pistachio. Leptoglossus zonatus, L. clypealis, and L. occidentalis. Adults of all three species are about 0.75 to 1 inch long, have a narrow brown body, and have a white zigzag pattern across the wings. They have different feeding preferences, but management is similar.
The brown, cylindrical eggs of all three species are laid end-to-end in a string-like strand on the host plant (Figure 2), often along a stem or leaf midrib. Eggs hatch into small nymphs that have dark heads and dark legs on bodies that range in color from orange to reddish-brown (Figure 3).
Leaffooted bugs overwinter as adults, typically in aggregations located in protected areas, such as in woodpiles, barns or other buildings, palm fronds, citrus or juniper trees, under peeling bark, or in tree cracks. Overwintered Fig. 3. Leaffooted bug nymphs on Hesperaloe parviflora. adults stay hidden from fall until late spring. When the weather gets warm, adults disperse to find food sources. Adults are strong flyers that may feed initially on the seeds of winter weeds and later move into gardens and landscapes in search of early-season fruit and a place to lay eggs.
Populations vary from year to year but are typically highest after mild winters that allow high survival of overwintering adults. Seasonal fluctuations in the number of bugs can also be related to rainfall, food availability, and the prevalence of natural enemies.
Damage to plants
Leaffooted bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts that extend more than half of the length of their narrow body. They probe into leaves, shoots, and fruit to suck plant juices. For most ornamentals and many garden plants, feeding on the leaves and shoots causes no visual damage and is of little concern. Feeding on small tomatoes can cause the fruit to abort, while feeding on medium-sized fruit can result in depressions or discoloration at the feeding site as the fruit expands and ripens. Feeding on mature tomatoes can cause slight discoloration to the surface of the fruit that should be of no concern to backyard gardeners. Damage is similar to that caused by stink bugs and other plant bugs.
During most years, leaffooted bug populations are low enough that damage to gardens is tolerable and damage to landscape plants is negligible. When outbreaks occur, a combination of methods will likely be needed to manage this pest, which may include removing overwintering sites or the use of weed host removal, row covers, physical removal, natural enemies, and insecticides.
Are pesticides effective?
Insecticides are rarely needed for leaffooted bug control because small blemishes on most fruit are tolerable in gardening situations and because landscape plants are rarely damaged. Also, leaffooted bugs are most common on edible plants near harvest, when applying pesticides to fruits to be consumed is undesirable or not allowed by the label. In addition, most insecticides available to homeowners only have temporary effects on the leaffooted bug.
However, in severe cases, insecticides can be considered as a last resort. If needed, insecticides will be most effective against small nymphs. The most effective insecticides against leaffooted bugs are broad-spectrum, pyrethroid-based insecticides, such as permethrin. However, these products are quite toxic to bees and beneficial insects. Insecticidal soap or botanicals, such as neem oil or pyrethrin, may provide some control of young nymphs only. If insecticides are used close to harvest, make sure to tell your customers to observe the days-to-harvest period stated on the insecticide label; and wash the fruit before eating.
Leaf-footed Bug (Acanthocephala spp.)
The stout and sturdy Leaf-footed Bug will fight with males of its own species, but takes flight at the first sign of any other danger.
Leaf-footed Bug Videos
A female Leaf-footed Bug laying a row of eggs on the leaf of a houseplant
The hefty Leaf-footed Bug has a wide, prominent carapace (shoulder region) that somewhat resembles armor. The males of this large, plant-eating family have unusually thick thighs, often edged with spikes. Their lower legs may also be flat and shaped somewhat like a dried leaf. These parts of the leg are used to fight other males in order to win a female to mate with. Leaf-Footed Bugs make a loud noise when they fly, or as a means of defense when they are threatened or bothered. A foul odor can also be emitted as a defensive adaptation. Adults fly very well, and dash away if approached.
Nymphs feed on ash trees and other plants. They have flared and spiky abdomens that may curl upward when approached. Without wings at this younger life stage, they resemble the nymphs of Assassin Bugs.
The majority of species are found in the southern United States, but they range across the entire North American continent. Some prefer arid deserts, while others prefer humid, more tropical climes or temperate forests. All adults feed on plant juices and can be found on a variety of vegetation including prairie plants like Joe-Pye Weed, goldenrods, and hawthorns as well as on trees and shrubs.
How to Manage Pests
Pests in Gardens and Landscapes
In this Guideline:
Leptoglossus zonatus adult.
Leptoglossus clypealis adult showing sharply pointed clypeus.
Leptoglossus occidentalis adult.
Leaffooted bug eggs are laid end to end in strands.
Leaffooted bug nymph.
An adult parasitoid lays its eggs inside of the eggs of leaffooted bug.
Leaffooted bugs are medium to large sized insects that feed on fruits, fruiting vegetables, nuts, and ornamentals. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts that allow them to feed on plant parts, particularly seeds. Leaffooted bugs are in the family Coreidae and get their name from the small leaf-like enlargements found on the hind leg. They are closely related to other sucking insects, such as stink bugs (family Pentatomidae) that can also suck juices from plants.
There are three common species of leaffooted bugs that are native to California and the western United States. These include Leptoglossus zonatus, L. clypealis, and L. occidentalis. Adults of all three species are about 0.75 to 1 inch long and have a narrow brown body. Adults of all three species are similar in appearance, except that:
- L. zonatus has two yellow spots just behind the head (on the pronotum).
- L. clypealis has a thorn-like projection called a clypeus that extends forward from the tip of the head.
- L. occidentalis has neither of these features.
All three species have a white zigzag pattern across the wings: this pattern is prominent in L. zonatus and L. clypealis and is relatively faint in L. occidentalis.
The brown, cylindrical eggs of all three species are laid end-to-end in a string-like strand on the host plant, often along a stem or leaf midrib. Most egg masses have 10-15 eggs, though more than 50 have been reported. Eggs hatch into small nymphs that have dark heads and dark legs on bodies that range in color from orange to reddish-brown. Small leaffooted bugs can be confused with nymphs of the assassin bug (Zelus renardii). Nymphs of this beneficial insect have light-colored legs and antennae and hatch from barrel-shaped eggs that are grouped together with a white cone top. As leaffooted bug nymphs become larger, they can easily be recognized by the development of the leaf-like projection on the hind legs.
Leaffooted bugs overwinter as adults, typically in aggregations located in protected areas, such as in woodpiles, barns or other buildings, palm fronds, citrus or juniper trees, under peeling bark, or in tree cracks. Cold winters kill many adults, and major outbreaks often occur after mild winters. Overwintered adults live from September/October until late spring. When weather gets warm, typically in March in the San Joaquin Valley and April in the Sacramento Valley, adults disperse to find food sources. Adults are strong flyers that may feed initially on the seeds of winter weeds and later move into gardens, landscapes, and farms in search of early-season fruit and a place to lay eggs.
Overwintering leaffooted bugs can lay over 200 eggs during a two-month period in the spring. Nymphs emerge from the eggs about 1 week after being deposited, after which they develop into adults in 5 to 8 weeks. Adults are long-lived and can lay eggs over an extended period, so the population can consist of all life stages by late June. At this time, overwintering adults are still alive as the first generation of their offspring develop into adults. During the spring and summer, there are typically two to three generations of leaffooted bugs. In the fall, all bugs develop until they become adults that overwinter in aggregations.
Population levels change from year to year depending on weather and parasitism of eggs. Populations are typically highest after mild winters that allow high survival of overwintering adults. Seasonal fluctuations in the number of bugs can also be related to rainfall, food availability, and the prevalence of natural enemies.
In the spring, leaffooted bugs often feed on thistles and other weeds. Adults migrate from weedy areas into gardens and landscapes, particularly when fruits have started to ripen. L. zonatus is the most destructive of the leaffooted bug species. It feeds on many types of plants and is most commonly reported by gardeners as a pest of tomatoes and pomegranates; farmers primarily report it as a pest of almonds, pistachios, and pomegranates. Other important hosts in California include young citrus fruit, cotton bolls, watermelons, and several ornamental trees and shrubs. L. clypealis also has a wide host range within gardens, landscapes, and farms and is the predominant species found on desert plants like palm trees, Joshua trees, and yucca. L. occidentalis, also known as the western conifer seed bug, is primarily found in association with conifer trees.
Leaffooted bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts that extend more than half of the length of the narrow body. They use this mouthpart to probe into leaves, shoots, and fruit to suck plant juices. The depth of the probing depends on the size of the bug: small nymphs feed shallowly on superficial plant juices, whereas adult bugs probe deep into fruit in search of seeds. If a hard seed is found, such as an almond kernel or juniper berry, the bug excretes digestive enzymes from its mouthparts to liquefy a small part of the seed so that it can be ingested. Leaffooted bug mouthparts are also known to carry a fungal yeast, Eremothecium coryli (formerly known as Nematospora). When leaffooted bugs feed, this yeast can be introduced into fruit causing a variety of symptoms usually related to discoloration. However, the yeast causes no damage that would limit the ability of the fruit to be harvested and consumed. This infection is most predominant when rains are abundant.
For most ornamental and many garden plants, feeding on the leaves and shoots causes no visual damage and is of little concern. The most destructive damage occurs when bugs feed on fruit. Early-season feeding on nuts like almonds and pistachios can cause the kernel to abort and die, and mid- to late-season feeding on nuts causes a black stain on the kernel. On pomegranates, late-season feeding as the fruit ripens generally causes no external damage but can cause aryls (seed-like structures) to darken and wither, especially if fungal spores gain entry into the fruit through the feeding wound. Large aggregations of leaffooted bugs can also leave excrement on the surface of the fruit that can reduce its aesthetic appeal. Feeding on small fruit (e.g., tomatoes) can cause the fruit to abort, while feeding on medium-sized fruit can result in depressions or discoloration at the feeding site as the fruit expands and ripens. Feeding on mature tomatoes can cause slight discoloration to the surface of the fruit that should be of no concern to backyard gardeners.
During most years, leaffooted bug populations are low enough that damage to gardens is tolerable and damage to landscape plants is negligible. When outbreaks occur, a variety of methods will likely be needed to manage this pest, which may include removing overwintering sites or the use of weed host removal, row covers, physical removal, natural enemies, and insecticides. Achieving good control will likely require some combination of these methods.
Remove Overwintering Sites
Adult bugs overwinter in woodpiles, under the bark of eucalyptus, juniper, or cypress, and in outbuildings. Large numbers may pass the winter in culls of fruit such as pomegranates. Remove these overwintering sites where possible or inspect them for leaffooted bugs.
Weedy areas serve as a food source for leaffooted bugs during winter and spring, when fruits are not available. Try to eliminate such areas near your garden or keep weedy areas closely mowed.
Covering plants with a row cover material can prevent feeding by leaffooted bugs. A row cover is a light, permeable material, usually made of polypropylene or polyester. Row covers are sometimes used to extend the harvest season past the first few frosts but are also valuable for preventing damage by a wide range of pests. Covers must be applied early, before bugs arrive and lay eggs on plants; otherwise, bugs will be trapped inside. Unfortunately, row covers will prevent pollinators and beneficial insects from reaching plants. Some garden plants like tomatoes are self-pollinating, but whiteflies or aphids may build up if beneficial insects are excluded.
Thoroughly examine plants for all stages of the pest, daily to several times per week. The bugs may be hidden inside dense foliage layers or fruit clusters, and they may hide or fly when startled. Handpick and crush the bugs or brush them off plants into soapy water. Wear gloves because of the odor they will emit when handled. A handheld vacuum dedicated to catching the bugs can be effective at reducing numbers, if used regularly. It is especially important to remove the bugs as early in the season as possible, when the very young nymphs are tightly clustered together, and morning is best to reduce movement and flight. Be sure to also destroy the egg masses found on the underside of leaves.
For late-season infestations in pomegranate trees, prune trees so that there is a space between tree limbs and the ground. Leaffooted bug nymphs can easily be knocked out of the tree using a stick, by physically shaking the tree limbs, or using water from a pressure nozzle on a garden hose. Once bugs fall on the ground, they can be smashed. This method is effective against nymphs but will not dislodge eggs. It is less effective against adults, which are able to fly away. For this reason, this method should be repeated once every 1 to 2 weeks as necessary, until the majority of the bugs have disappeared. Laying a white ground cover beneath the plant can aid in seeing the insects when using this control method.
Native egg parasites, such as the tiny wasp, Gryon pennsylvanicum, if not disrupted, may reduce leaffooted bug populations by killing the eggs before they hatch. Adult leaffooted bugs may be parasitized by certain tachinid flies, such as Trichopoda pennipes, which lays its eggs on the sides of large nymphs or adults of several species of true bugs. Leaffooted bug predators include birds, spiders, and assassin bugs. Although they may control only a small number of the bugs, natural enemies are important to preserve because they control other pests as well. Avoiding use of persistent broad-spectrum insecticides and assuring pollen and nectar sources for adult beneficials are important ways to protect natural enemies.
Insecticides are rarely needed for leaffooted bug control because small blemishes on most fruit are tolerable in gardening situations and because landscape plants are rarely damaged. Also, because they are primarily seed feeders, leaffooted bugs are most common on garden plants near harvest, when the application of pesticides to fruits that are going to be consumed is undesirable. In addition, most insecticides available to homeowners only have temporary effects on the leaffooted bug.
However, in severe cases, insecticides can be considered as a last resort. If needed, insecticides will be most effective against small nymphs. Therefore, monitor infested plants for egg masses and try to make insecticide applications when small nymphs are present. The most effective insecticides against leaffooted bug are broad-spectrum, pyrethroid-based insecticides, such as permethrin. However, these products are quite toxic to bees and beneficial insects. Insecticidal soap or botanicals, such as neem oil or pyrethrin, may provide some control of young nymphs only. If insecticides are used close to harvest, make sure to observe the days-to-harvest period indicated on the insecticide label; and wash the fruit before eating.
WARNING ON THE USE OF PESTICIDES
Chi, A.A. and R.F. Mizell III. Western leaffooted bug. University of Florida web site.
Pest Notes: Leaffooted Bug
Authors: Chuck Ingels, UCCE Sacramento and David Haviland, UCCE Kern Co.
Produced by University of California Statewide IPM Program
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Q: These insects are attacking my tomatoes. Please tell me what they are and how I can get rid of them.
A: You’re seeing leaf-footed bugs, Leptoglossus pyllopus. These insects are close kin to stinkbugs and have the same piercing-sucking mouthparts. They insert their straw-like proboscis into a ripe tomato and suck out some of the juice. The damage gives a tomato a yellowish spot on the skin. They can also spread disease from place to place.
Populations vary from year to year. 2009 was a banner year for leaf-footed bugs and their little red nymphs on tomatoes.
The adults are tough to control organically. If you wear gloves, they are easy to catch and squish. and/or a rotenone-pyrethrin combination are used as organic insecticides. You’ll have to spray regularly to get control.
Some gardeners report success with using a hand-held vacuum to suck up the insects.
also gives good control.
Watch for the distinctive red nymphs in June next year and control them with .
Leaf-footed Bugs in the Garden
leaf footed bug
leaf footed bug and nymphs
Tags For This Article: disease, insects, leaf-footed, leaffooted, tomatoes
| The brown stink bug is an occasional pest
| The leaf-footed bug in the nymph stage will
tightly cluster as a family group to feed on a
variety of plants including passionvine (shown
above), pecans, ornamentals, citrus,
as well as tomatoes.
| The leaf-footed bug feeding on a tomato grown
in the Demonstration Garden at the
A. The rough sandpaper-like texture that you have seen is evidence of an insect known as the leaf-footed bug. While many area gardeners also call them stinkbugs (because they produce a foul odor when handled), leaf-footed bug is the preferred name.
The immature stages (known as nymphs) of this insect are spindly, soft-bodied and bright orange-red in color. Very young nymphs stay tightly clustered as a family unit. The adult stage of the leaf-footed bug is brown, oblong and nearly an inch long. The species most common to this area has a distinctive white band extending across the front wings. The hind legs have a leaf-like shaped area from which the insect’s name is derived.
There are other species of stinkbugs that feed on tomato fruit including the green and brown stinkbugs. However, the green and brown stinkbugs are minor insect pests in our growing area.
Leaf-footed bugs have a needle-like, piercing-sucking mouthpart through which they suck plant juices. The puncture made is what caused the spot and the deformation that you have observed. While making the puncture, a toxin is injected into the fruit. If you peel back the skin, you will see that this discolored area is more than superficial. The tissue below the skin is a somewhat corky or spongy mass of silvery white cells.
This damage is serious for commercial fresh market tomatoes and whole pack processing tomatoes because it renders the fruit unmarketable. However, if the fruit was of high quality prior to damage, the processor might cut out the spots and use the remaining tomato as canned pieces. The undamaged portion of the tomato in a home garden certainly can be consumed, if desired.
Leaf-footed bugs are also serious pests of other crops including beans, cowpeas, eggplants, okra, citrus, and pecans. Adult leaf-footed bugs migrate from weedy areas into tomato plants, particularly when the fruit has started to ripen. This is why you typically do did not see damage early in the season but you did see damage later in the harvest season.
Leaf-footed bugs are difficult to control. Weedy areas, such as fence rows and ditch banks, serve as shelters for these insects during the winter season, and when tomatoes and other host plants are not available. Therefore, to eliminate such areas near your garden or to keep weedy areas closely mowed would be beneficial.
Insecticides such as permethrin (such as Spectracide’s Bug Stop Multi-purpose Insect Killer or Bonide’s Total Pest Control Concentrate Outdoor Formula) or cyfluthrin (such as Bayer’s Advanced Garden Lawn & Garden Multi-Insect Killer) or esfenvalerate (such as Ortho’s Bug-B-Gon Multi-purpose Insect Killer Concentrate or Bonide’s Bug Beater Concentrate) are effective in controlling leaf footed bugs as well as stink bugs, aphids, fruitworms and hornworms. Do not use permethrin on varieties with fruit less than one inch diameter. Be sure to observe the days-to-harvest period indicated on the pesticide label. Be certain to wash the fruit before using.
It is important to observe your garden on a daily basis. Should you spot leaf-footed bugs, you might handpick the bugs, especially early in the season and when the very young nymphs are tightly clustered. You should use gloves because of the odor they will emit when handled and you should drop them into a can of soapy water.
I work in a garden with a group of volunteers. The other day, a sharp eyed person pointed out some bright orange-red bugs like these on the leaves of one of our potato plants.
These are the nymphs of the leaf footed bug, a relative of stink bugs. Adult leaf footed bugs are brown, with a flattened, leaf-shaped area on their hind legs. Both the nymphs and adults are pests that damage buds, flowers, fruits and seeds. Leaf footed bugs feed on many plants, including tomatoes, peaches, blueberries, beans, okra, and pecans. When these bugs feed on tomato fruit, they cause yellow, hardened spots to develop. Feeding on other fruits can cause brown spots to shriveled, misshapen fruits, depending on the number of bugs and the time the fruits are damaged.
Adult leaf footed bugs overwinter in weedy areas or under mulch and debris. They lay eggs in a row on the undersides of leaves or on stems. Eggs hatch in 5-7 days, and nymphs mature in 25-30 days.
Leaf footed bugs and their stinkbug relatives are difficult to control, but scouting for these pests now will help keep populations from building up throughout the season. Removing the nymphs and adults by hand and dropping them into a container of soapy water is an effective means of control when populations are small. You may want to wear gloves when picking leaf footed bugs from your plants – they do have an unpleasant smell. There are few organic pesticides that are effective on these bugs, but hand picking now and reducing places where the adults can overwinter will help keep next year’s population in check. If you choose to use an insecticide to control a large population of leaf footed bugs, pyrethroids can be used as directed.
Just a quick word of caution, though – some assassin bugs (beneficial insects) are also orange and can look similar to the leaf footed bug nymphs shown above. For photos of assassin bugs, click here
For more information about leaf footed bugs:
How to deal with stinkbugs and leaf-footed bugs
The infamous stinkbug and his relative, the leaf-footed bug, are the topics of this space today. Any of you that have ever attempted to grow a crop of tomatoes, or several other vegetables for that matter, will be familiar with our old nemesis, the stinkbug. Let’s look at him, how he operates, and what we can do to prevent him from ruining our vegetable crops. We will include the leaf-footed bug in this discussion.
Stinkbugs and their cousins, leaf-footed bugs, are common pests on many fruits and vegetables in the southeast. Adult stinkbugs are distinctively shield-shaped and from ½ to ¾ inches in length. They may be green or brown in color. When held or squashed, they emit a foul odor, hence the name stinkbug. Young, immature stinkbugs are smaller and rounder and more colorful, with patterned red, black, green and white bodies.
Adult leaf-footed bugs are a little larger than stinkbugs, with dark brown bodies often with a white line across the middle. Flat, leaf-like attachments extend from the lower end of their back legs. Their young are bright red with long black legs but lack wings.
Stinkbug eggs are barrel-shaped and are deposited in clusters on the undersides of leaves and hatch in about five days. The stinkbug develops through five stages of growth in about 32 days. Females begin laying eggs about 14-20 days after reaching the adult stage.
Both stinkbugs and leaf-footed bugs damage plants by inserting their needle-like mouthparts into the buds, flowers, fruits and even seeds of many types of plants including beans, sweet corn, okra, apples, figs, peaches, eggplant, tomatoes, blueberries and many others. This removal of plant sap causes fruits and seeds to appear misshapen or shriveled, leaving behind a small pin prick injury on the surface of the affected plant part. As the injury heals, the feeding site becomes hard and darkens. Although stinkbugs and leaf-footed bugs can feed on leaves and stems, reproductive plant parts such as corn ears, tomato and pepper fruit, seeds and pods are their preferred feeding sites. Stinkbugs may also provide a point of entry for disease organisms as they feed, resulting in fruit decay.
Both stinkbugs and leaf-footed bugs are challenging to control. They overwinter in grassy areas such as ditch banks and fence rows. Controlling weeds around vegetable gardens and orchards can help reduce bug populations, but both are strong fliers and can easily migrate from other areas into your garden.
Birds and spiders are predators of stinkbugs and leaf-footed bugs. There are also several species of beneficial insects which feed on them, including assassin bugs, predatory stinkbugs and wheel bugs. Parasitic insects can help control these pests but they are sensitive to pesticides. In areas where pesticides are commonly used, the populations of these and other beneficial insects may be greatly reduced.
In smaller gardens, stinkbugs and leaf-footed bugs can be controlled by handpicking them from plants and either smashing them or drowning them in a bucket of soapy water. Though these bugs will not sting, they certainly will issue a foul odor to the handler.
In larger gardens, chemical control is often necessary. Very few organic pesticides have any effect on these bugs. Standard pesticides containing pyrethroids are relatively effective for controlling leaf-footed bugs and stink bugs, but must be applied every seven to 10 days for best results. These include products containing permethrin, bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, beta-cyfluthrin or fenpropathrin as the active ingredient. When shopping for these pesticides, look for one of these names on the label and check to see if the pesticide is labelled for use on your particular crop.
I hope this article has been helpful in your effort to win the fight against but two of our ever-present garden enemies – the stinkbug and leaf-footed bug.
Tim Lewis is a Georgia Green Industry Association Certified Plant Professional, gardening writer, former Perry High School horticulture instructor, and former horticulturalist at Henderson Village and Houston Springs. He and his wife, Susan, own and operate Lewis Farms Nursery located on Hwy 26 two miles east of Elko, where he was born and raised. He can be reached at (478) 954-1507 or [email protected] and at LewisFarmsNursery.com.
Facts, Identification & Control
What do they look like?
There are a large number of insects in this group. Leaf footed bugs (sometimes called squash bugs) get their common name from the leaf-like looking structure located on the insect’s hind legs.
- Length: Some species can be as large as 2.5 cm long.
- Color: They are usually dark brown to black. Some have pale markings.
How Did I Get Leaffooted Bugs?
Normally leaffooted bugs usually do not invade in large numbers. Yards with large amounts of ornamental plants, trees, shrubs, or gardens may have leaf footed bugs. Also, habitats such as thick weeds and uncut grass provide excellent living conditions for these insects.
Leaffooted bug adults often overwinter in cracks and gaps of home siding as well as in woodpiles or outbuildings. After overwintering, the adults seek out host plants to feed on and begin the process of reproduction.
How Serious Are Leaf-footed Bugs?
Leaf-footed bugs can cause grief for people with backyard gardens. The pests wreak havoc on fruit, vegetables, and ornamentals. Tomatoes and pomegranates are among their favorite things to eat.
Sometimes the bugs transmit diseases to the plants. Thankfully, the pests do not bite or spread diseases to humans. However, they do have a terrible scent, especially when crushed.
In addition, leaf-footed bugs often gather on warm windowsills or home siding in the fall, becoming eyesores. An occasional adult might try to find a place to spend the winter. Many times they find openings in homes and get inside.
When spring comes, the adults become active again. They try to move outside to feed and mate. The insects do not cause any damage indoors, and they do not deposit eggs in the home.
How Do I Get Rid of Leaffooted Bugs?
What Orkin Does
An insecticide application outside on the foundation and around doors and windows can help prevent these bugs from coming into the home. Because of moisture and temperature, the barrier should be reapplied periodically.
What You Can Do
Many homeowners use a vacuum to remove them from the living space.
Preventing leaf-footed bugs from invading the home starts with an inspection.
- Check the exterior of the home to find any openings that the bugs could use to get inside.
- Make sure exterior doors close tightly.
- Replace weather stripping that is missing or damaged.
- Check the screens on windows, attic vents, and crawlspace vents.
Leaffooted Bugs vs. Kissing Bugs
Confusion about non-biting leaf-footed bugs and biting kissing bugs exists among many homeowners who often mistakenly confuse leaf-footed bugs for the medically important kissing bugs. To avoid confusion, simply remember that kissing bugs DO NOT have the leaf shaped structure on their hind legs.
The adults lay eggs on leaves. The immature insects and the adults suck the juice from the leaves. In warm areas of the country, there are two or three generations of these bugs per year.