NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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Bugs in the genus Leptoglossus are named leaf-footed bugs because part of the hind leg is wide and flat and more or less resembles a leaf. These leaf-like expansions are reputed somehow to aid males in “fighting” for females. Leaf-footed bugs are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long and the eastern leaf-footed bug, Leptoglossus phyllopus, often has a noticeable white line across the back of its wings. The bugs emit a distinctive odor from scent glands on the thorax. Eggs are fastened end to end in a small, golden-brown line of cylindrical eggs of about 20 on twigs or along a leaf vein. Eggs are preyed upon by fire ants and the snowy tree cricket, Oecanthus fultoni. At least three species of tiny wasps parasitize eggs as well. Eastern leaf-footed nymphs resemble adults except that nymphs are smaller, and nymphs do not have wings. Very young nymphs have red bodies. Also, the hind legs of nymphs are completely slender. Eastern leaf-footed bugs often aggregate into large groups. One plant may be swarming with bugs while a neighboring plant has none. Several generations occur each year in North Carolina.

Eastern leaf-footed bug

Eastern leaf-footed bugs usually have a white stripe across the back.

Leaf-footed bug eggs

Leaf-footed bug eggs are always laid in rows.

Very young eastern leaf-footed nymphs

Very young eastern leaf-footed nymphs are reddish.

eastern leaf-footed bug nymphs

Older eastern leaf-footed bug nymphs are all gray.

Host Plants

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Host Plants Leaf-footed bugs are plant feeders and are sometimes common pests in the vegetable garden, but they also kill back the tips of roses and ruin the seeds of sunflowers. Leaf-footed bugs also feed on and ruin pecan nuts, and they damage peaches and plums. Leaf-footed bugs even feed on in pine cones where they weaken or destroy developing seeds. Other plants infested include apple, bean, beargrass, bell pepper, blueberry, blackberry, cowpea, crape myrtle, cucurbits, eggplant, Gerbera daisy, gladiolus, grain sorghum, hibiscus, ligustrum, loquat, oat, okra, peach, pear, persimmon, plum, potato, tomato, and, to a lesser extent, rye, wheat, barley, and soybean. Eastern leaf-footed bugs also infest elderberry, goldenrod, jimsonweed, and thistle.

Residential Recommendations

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Leaf-footed bugs are susceptible to insecticidal soaps as well as pyrethroid pesticides labeled for homeowner use in landscapes. Such pesticides are available in most garden sections of big box stores. If only a small group of bugs are a problem, they can be dislodged into a jar of soapy water in which they will drown in agony.

References

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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local Cooperative Extension Center.

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.

Author

Professor Emeritus
Entomology

Publication date: July 4, 2016
Revised: Sept. 16, 2019

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