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 allow them to feed on all parts of the plant. The adult bugs are especially drawn to the seeds.
These insects have earned the nickname “Leaf Footed“ because their hind legs have small, leaf-like growths. This type of bug is related to several 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?
If you see bugs that look like leaves, then you likely saw a Leaf Footed Bug.
There are more than 1800 types of Leaf Footed Bugs worldwide. About 80 of these species live in North America.
One of the unique characteristics of leaf-footed bug nymph is their appearance. The nymphs of these insects often have a striking resemblance to leaves, twigs, or other plant materials.
They may have a flattened body shape, brown or green coloration, and sometimes have leaf-like extensions or markings that help them blend in with their environment.
While they vary somewhat in markings, most have a basic brown, oblong body, small wings, and 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 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, woodpiles, 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 leave 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.
Each strand usually has 10 or 15 eggs, but some bugs can lay as many as 50 eggs per strand.
After about a week, the eggs hatch, and the leaf footed nymph emerge and eat. 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 leaf footed bug 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:
- Conifer Trees
- Joshua Trees
- Cotton Bolls
- Palm Trees
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 can probe all manner of fruits, leaves, and shoots to suck out the plant juices of almost any sort of plant.
Adult bugs can 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, small 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 leaf footed bug nymph and adult bugs directly damage fruits, plant parts, and seeds. Additionally, these bugs carry a type of fungal yeast (Eremothecium coryli) that spreads and infects any fruit the leaf 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 die. If they feed on nuts in the 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.
Feeding these leaf 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 from 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 several ways on how to get rid of leaf footed bugs.
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 removing 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 keep them out.
Remove Adults and Leaf footed bug nymph 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 leaf 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 Leaf-footed bug nymph 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.
The use of a wet-dry vac will allow you to put soapy water in the barrel of the machine to drown the leaf 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 control pests such as Leaf Footed Bugs and others.
Consistent use of all of the methods outlined above on how to get rid of leaf-footed bugs naturally 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 to benefit your garden and the world.
In addition, it’s important to note that while these natural methods can be effective, they may not completely eliminate the leaf-footed bug population.
Consulting with a local agricultural extension office or pest control professional is recommended for severe infestations or more targeted control strategies.
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 using pesticides for leaf footed bug control 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:
- Insecticidal soap
- Pyrethrum spray
- Neem Oil for plants
If using these products near harvest time, pay close attention to the days-to-harvest period listed on the product’s label. Wash all fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating.