What Is A Leaf Footed Bug and 7 Ways To Control Them

Bugs known as Leaf Footed Bugs are members of the insect family, Coreidae. They are medium-sized to large insects that eat a wide variety of garden plants including ornamentals, fruiting vegetables, fruits and nuts. 

These insects (like mealybugs) feed using piercing, sucking mouthparts that make it possible for them to feed on all parts of the plant. The adult bugs are especially drawn to the seeds.

Leaf footed bug on a tomato fruit
leaf Footed Bugs climbing feeding on Tomato| forestpath-DepositPhotos

These insects have earned the nickname “Leaf Footed“ because their hind legs have small, leaf-like growths. This type of bug is related to a number of other different types of sucking insects (e.g. stink bugs) which are members of the insect family, Pentatomidae.

How Can You Identify Leaf Footed Bugs?

There are more than 1800 types of Leaf Footed Bugs worldwide. About 80 of these species live in North America. While they vary somewhat in markings, most have a basic brown, oblong body, small wings and the telltale leaf-like projections on the hind legs. 

Adult bugs in all species are about an inch long and have narrow, brown bodies and very small heads with long antennae. Aside from their small distinctions, the species look fairly similar and have the same lifecycle.

Unusual Insects: Leaf Footed Plant Bugs in Houston Texas

The nymphs of the Leaf Footed Bug are usually an orange or reddish brown color. They have long, dark legs and dark heads. As the nymphs mature, they develop the leaf-like projections on their legs.

Sadly, Leaf Footed nymphs look quite a bit like beneficial Assassin Bug nymphs. Before you kill any bug nymphs, be sure to identify them accurately. The nymphs of the Assassin Bug are light-colored and remain smooth and slim.

Leaf-footed bug nymph crawling on leaves

Adult Leaf Footed Bugs can overwinter in debris, wood piles and outbuildings. As long as they are protected from extreme cold, they will survive the winter months and emerge in the springtime seeking food. 

They will also immediately begin laying eggs when they come out of hiding and can lay as many as two hundred before the growing season begins.

Watch for their golden-brown, cylindrical eggs, which are laid in a string-like strand, on leaf midribs or stems of the host plant. There are usually ten or fifteen eggs in each strand, but it is possible for some bugs to lay as many as fifty eggs per strand.

Eggs hatch after about a week, and the nymphs emerge and begin eating. Within two months, they will have developed into adults and will start the entire cycle over again. 

Before summer is well underway, you may have two full generations of Leaf Footed Bugs in your yard and garden because the overwintered adults will still be alive, and a whole new, expanded generation will be fully grown and continuing to breed and lay eggs.

What Damage Does Leaf Footed Bug Cause?

Early in the springtime, overwintered Leaf Footed Bugs survive by eating weeds. As the growing season progresses and yard, orchard and garden plants emerge, the bugs move from the weeds into the garden, orchard and landscape. 

These bugs are especially attracted to:

  • Pomegranates
  • Conifer Trees
  • Joshua Trees
  • Watermelons
  • Cotton Bolls
  • Palm Trees
  • Pistachios
  • Tomatoes
  • Almonds
  • Citrus
  • Yucca

They are not limited to the plants on this list, though. 

All-in-all, Leaf Footed Bugs will adapt and eat whatever is available. Their long, sturdy, piercing, sucking mouthparts are able to probe all manner of fruits, leaves and shoots to suck out the juices of almost any sort of plant. 

Adult bugs are able to feed directly on the seeds of plants. They insert their mouthparts deeply into fruits and excrete digestive enzymes to liquefy the shells of hard seeds.

Naturally, nymphs are not as able to feed deeply as mature bugs, but they have no trouble eking out a living until they reach full growth.

The feeding habits of nymphs and adult bugs directly damages fruits, plant parts and seeds. Additionally, these bugs carry a type of fungal yeast (Eremothecium coryli ) that spreads and infects any fruit the bug feeds upon. 

Even though the damage caused by this fungus is just cosmetic, it ruins the market value of the fruit. This type of fungal infection is more likely to happen when there is heavy rain.

When Leaf Footed Bugs feed on nuts, such as pistachios and almonds early in the season, they cause the nut kernel to abort and to die. If they feed on nuts in mid to late season, it will cause the kernels to develop black stains.

When Leaf Footed Bugs feed on pomegranates, they cause damage to the many seed-like structures (aryls) inside the fruits. The small seeds will become dark and wither.

When Leaf Footed Bugs feed on immature tomatoes and other types of garden vegetables, they may cause the fruit of the plant to abort. 

Alternately, they may leave discolored spots and depressions at the point where they have fed. 

If they feed on mature tomatoes, they cause cosmetic damage, which does not make the fruit inedible, but does ruin its market value.

The feeding of these bugs is not especially damaging to ornamental plants, and is not a cause for much concern. Even so, if you see Leaf Footed Bugs on your ornamental plants, you should get them under control to prevent them spreading to food crops.

If there are a lot of Leaf Footed Bugs, they damage fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants by leaving excrement over the surface of fruits and leaves.

How To Control the Leaf Footed Bug?

Most of the time, Leaf Footed Bugs have fairly low populations and can simply be tolerated in the landscape. When there is a population explosion of these pests, there are a number of ways to control and manage them.

Here are 7 Natural Ways to Control Leaf Footed Bugs:

Prevention is Preferable to Cure

As with most garden pests and diseases, prevention is preferable to cure. You can prevent excessive Leaf Footed Bug population growth by being sure to remove any potential overwintering sites, such as piles of wood or brush.

Keep Weeds Under Control

Be sure to keep weeds under control because early spring weed growth provides sustenance for adult Leaf Footed Bugs that have overwintered.

Use Row Covers To Prevent Pests

In the springtime, you can use row covers to prevent these pests from being able to access your growing plants. Put the row covers in place early in the springtime before Leaf Footed Bugs emerge from overwintering. 

If you put them up too late, they will hold the bugs in rather than keeping them out.

Remove Adults and Nymphs By Hand

If you see Leaf Footed Bugs and/or their nymphs on your plants, pick them off and drop them into a bucket of hot, soapy water. 

Remember that these bugs are related to stink bugs and will emit a bad smell when you handle them. Wear gloves when picking them off to avoid having this smell transferred to your skin.

Remove Adults and Nymphs With A Small Vacuum or Shop Vac

Another way to remove Leaf Footed Bugs and their nymphs from your plants is to use a small, hand-held vacuum cleaner or a shop vac to suck them up. 

Use of a wet dry vac will allow you to put soapy water in the barrel of the machine to drown the bugs when they are sucked up.

Destroy Egg Clusters When Found

Examine your plants for egg clusters and destroy them whenever you find them. Be careful not to destroy Assassin Bug egg clusters. 

They differ from Leaf Footed Bug eggs because the Assassin Bug lays its eggs in clumps. The individual eggs are barrel shaped.

Encourage Natural Predators

Encourage natural predators, such as:

… to live in your garden. They will naturally help keep pests such as Leaf Footed Bugs and others well under control.

Consistent use of all of the methods outlined above will help you avoid the use of pesticides. 

This is important because broad-spectrum insecticides are especially detrimental to beneficial insects and pollinators, all of which you need for the benefit of your garden and we need for the benefit of the world.

Use Pesticide & Insecticides As A Last Resort

Remember that for the most part, the damage done by Leaf Footed Bugs does not cause garden fruits and vegetables to be inedible. Additionally, they do most of their damage near harvest time, so use of pesticides to control them is especially undesirable.

If you must use something other than natural predators and manual removal, it’s best to use less damaging products such as:

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If using these products near harvest time, pay close attention to the days-to-harvest period listed on the label of the product. Wash all fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating.

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