Once you've seen a leaffooted bug (genus Leptoglossus), you'll never forget it.
If you look closely, you'll see a leaflike structure on each hind leg.
It's especially noticeable when the bug is on a brightly colored tomato or pomegranate.
Lately we've been seeing a lot of leaffooted bugs on our tomatoes. They're Leptoglossus phyllopus, as identified by senior museum scientist Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis. The bugs emerge in the early morning for a few hours and then, moving quite sluggishly, disappear among the leaves, only to make their presence known late in the evening and early the next morning.
They're pests of many fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and ornamentals, but they're so unusual looking that they draw the attention of photographers and other curious folks. It's camouflage at its best--except when they're on ripe red tomatoes and pomegranates. Then it's as if they're wearing neon.
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Program has this to say about leaffooted bugs on almonds:
"The leaffooted bug is an infrequent pest in almonds that gets its name from the small, leaflike enlargements found on the hind legs of the large nymphs and adults. Adult bugs are about 1 inch long and have a narrow brown body with a yellow or white zigzag line across its flattened back. Adult females lay eggs in strands of usually 10 to 15 eggs that are often found on the sides of nuts in almonds. Eggs hatch into small nymphs that resemble newly hatched assassin bugs."
Also read what UC IPM has to say about leaffooted bugs on pomegranates and several species: Leptoglossus clypealis, L. occidentalis, and L. zonatus.
If you have a passionflower vine (Passiflora), check to see what insects or stages of insects are making this plant their home.
A frost-bitten passionflower vine on a front porch near downtown Vacaville, Solano County, last weekend still contained a number of Gulf Fritillary caterpillars, some viable chrysalids, and some empty paper-thin chrysalids fluttering in the wind. The passionflower vine is the host plant of the Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae. These colorful reddish-orange butterflies lay their eggs on this plant, and the resulting larvae or caterpillars skeletonize the leaves.
But wait! What's that on that dangling seed pod?
Could it be? It was. A leaffooted bug or coreid (family Coreidae, suborder Heteroptera).
The bug is so named because of its leaf-like tibia or hind legs. Leaffooted bugs seem to prefer developing fruit, such as tomatoes and peaches, as well as seeds. They also are pests in almond and pistachio orchards. Folks in the Deep South see them on the seeds of black-eyed peas.
"They feed by piercing plant parts with their elongate beaks and sucking out the juices," wrote authors/entomologists Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue in their book, California Insects (University of California Press).
This one was draped on a seed pod, not moving much. That would come later.
When you first see the leaffooted bug, you know immediately how it got its name.
The appendages on its feet look like leaves!
This morning we saw one in our catmint (Nepeta) patch. It crawled beneath the tiny leaves, sharing space with honey bees, European wool carder bees, butterflies and assorted spiders.
Tonight scores of them stormed our pomegranate tree. In fact, they made the immature fruit their kitchen, living room and bedroom.
Although the leaffooted bug (Leptoglossus clypealis) is a pest of pistachios and almonds, we've never seen it on our pomegranate tree until today. Our tree, planted in 1927--back when Herbert Hoover was the U.S. president--has few pests. One year white flies attacked it mercilessly. Tonight leaffooted bugs claimed squatters' rights.
The adult bug is about an inch long with a white or yellow zigzag across its back. Shades of Zorro! Its most distinctive feature, however, are the leaflike appendages on its feet.
Back in 2009, integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, co-authored UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines on the leaffooted bug as it pertains to almonds. Zalom and his colleagues called attention to their needlelike mouthparts. The adults feed on young nuts "before the shell hardens." And after the nut is developed, "leaffooted bug feeding can still cause black spots on the kernel or wrinkled, misshapen nutmeats."
As for our pomegranate tree, we're not sure how well these leaffooted bugs can probe the tough, leathery fruit.
We open the pomegranates with a serrated knife...