Archive for leaf footed bug

“Comparison Between Leaf-Footed Bug and Milkweed Assassin Bug Nymphs”


Comparison Between Leaf-Footed Bug and Milkweed Assassin Bug Nymphs

 By George  Giltner,  Advanced. Master Gardener

Probably the last thing a gardener would want to do is kill off a beneficial insect, like the milkweed assassin bug, that is controlling pests ( flies, mosquitoes, caterpillars, cucumber beetles, the Asian  citrus psyllid, aphids, army worms, and other prey 6x their size).  The milkweed assassin bug is the common predator that is effective in our landscape and vegetable gardens.  Therefore its similar identity in the nymph stages to leaf-footed bug nymphs needs to be distinguished.

2015 leaf footed bug nymph

Harmful insect: a nymph of the leaf-footed bug, Photo by Lyle J. Buss, U. Florida

2015 MW Assassin bug

Beneficial Insect: a nymph of the milkweed assassin bug, Megha Kalsi, U. Florida

From looking at the above photos, the casual observer probably will not be able to distinguish between the two nymphs.  The juvenile insect in the top image will attack apples, blueberries, blackberries, cowpeas, cucurbits, eggplants, okra, tomatoes, pecans, hibiscus, etc.

The MW assassin bug nymph in the bottom image is a desirable predator to have in the garden.  Therefore you would definitely not want to bring out a broad range pesticide to kill what may or may not be a harmful bug, unless you are certain of the identification.

There are a few behavioral characteristics that may help.  The assassin bugs are usually loners that are observed sneaking up and “assassinating” their prey.  If you get near them, they may rare-up on long thin legs and extend their proboscis (nose) forward.  Also carefully observe the surrounding vegetation for assassin bugs that have captured prey.  Their proboscis has injected digestive enzymes into the prey for liquefaction, which does take time. Handling the latter nymphs and adults can result in a nasty bite.  So, be careful in capturing these bugs for children. A positive ID at the LSU AgCenter is recommended.  The preferable method is to take a close-up photo with a digital camera or a newer cell phone.

The nymphs of the leaf-footed bugs usually stay together to attack plants in packs that may include adults, and other pest-bugs.  A joint pest-effort in overcoming the plants defense system is typically seen on unhealthy plants. The proboscis will be kept under the belly of the bug. It never goes forward like the assassin bug’s exhibit.

The message is to make an effort to ID and keep the beneficial bugs, for they are the balance in the ecosystem of your garden or ornamentals.  Killing all bugs in a wide-spread area throws this system out of balance in favor of the pests that have the quicker and more abundant reproductive cycles.


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Control Eastern Leaf-footed Bugs on Thistles



Control Eastern Leaf-footed Bugs on Thistles

By George Giltner, Adv. Master Gardener

2015 leaf footed bug

Springtime is when bug control begins.  Already as temperatures have risen into the high seventies, the Eastern Leaf-footed bug, Leptoglossus phyllopus, has arisen from winter hiding places like in firewood, plant debris, around warm hay piles, etc.  Its mid-body white stripe and the broad leaf-like back legs easily identify this common pest.

Thistles (Cirsium spp.) are their principal host plant while they are tender and succulent.  Therefore take advantage of this time to spray for control before populations expand and infest summer fruits, nuts, ornamentals, and vegetables. Around organic gardens, OMRI-listed, “End All, Organic Insecticide” by Safer is a good choice.  It contains a mixture of neem oil, potassium soap, and organic pyrethrins that do not harm beneficial insects when used as directed.

Other more harmful insecticides including pyrethroids, carbamates, and organophosphates can currently be used, but carefully read all safety precautions and follow all instructions.  Author Janie F. Shelton, warns pregnant women to avoid contact with these agricultural chemicals in a NIH article, Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Prenatal Residential Proximity to Agricultural Pesticides: The Charge Study (

Cultural controls are to mow areas that contain thistle and other food sources.  Plowing under weeds and destroying winter left over crop debris will also reduce bug food supplies and hidden nymphs.

There are few biological controls for the eastern leaf-footed bug.  Two of these are tachinid flies, Trichopoda pennipes and T. plumipes.  Birds avoid these cousins of stink bugs, due to their mimicry of wasps or their foul odors.

Mechanical control is by hand picking in the garden or vacuuming.  Cool mornings in spring slow the bugs down enough for easy captures, however in warm afternoons, this process is more challenging.  The nymphs are orange to a golden brown with black legs.  Since they are wingless and have group behavior, capturing is easy.  The brown eggs form a broken cylinder that is laid along the stem or a leaf midrib.  You will have 5-7 days to peel these off before they hatch.

Leptoglossus will move to pecan, citrus fruits, blackberries, blueberries, apples, peaches, pears, plums, beans, peas, bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, corn, cucurbits, and other plants as the season progresses.  The bug’s sucking mouth-parts transmit disease, cause discoloration, pitting, plant wilting, and even plant death in large numbers.  Therefore early control on thistle weeds is more desirable than trying to control large numbers of locally grown leaf-footed bugs on produce crops later in the season.

2015 leaf footed bug 2

Thistle loaded with 100+ leaf-footed bugs in late March. Notice the toxic saliva and sap removal is causing tissue damage and bending of the thistle flower.

George Giltner is a Master Gardener in Beauregard Parish. He is an MG instructor in entomology and organic gardening.



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