The leaf-footed bug belongs to the order Hemiptera or so called “true bugs”. This order of insects is distinguished by their front wings that are thickened at the base and membranous at the tip. The hind wings are completely membranous and shorter than the front. On most true bugs, the front wings overlap and create a triangle (called a scutellum) or “x” pattern on the back of the insect. True bugs also have sucking mouthparts; some eat plants while others are predators. The Hualapai Tiger (also known as the conenose bug and kissing bug) is another Hemipteran that usually preys upon small rodents and sometimes humans.
Adult leaf-footed bugs are so named because of the flattened tibia on the rear legs (the tibia is the leg section between the foot and the section that is attached to the body). The adult body can be a greenish gray to black, about ¾” inch-long, with upwardly pointed structures on what we would think of as the shoulders. They are hard bodied which makes them somewhat difficult to control. Juveniles (nymphs) are smaller and often mostly black with a red spot on their back.
The leaf-footed bug often attacks ripening fruit crops and causes discolored depressions or blemishes called cat-faces. You may have noticed these wounds on your peaches or nectarines. These scars can cause undersized fruit or premature drop. On recent attacks you may notice clear sap to oozing out of the wounded areas on the fruit. These are the locations of the puncture wounds made by their long, piercing mouthparts.
Leaf-footed bugs also attack pecan nuts causing black pit in the kernels. When fruit crops are not available, they can be found eating the flowers and fruit of crepe myrtle, privet, and roses. Detecting and diagnosing these pests can be difficult because often they are not seen on the fruit or nut tree. They may be on a neighboring plant resting during the day, then travel to feed on the fruit or nut tree at night or in the early morning. To correctly diagnose this pest, look for the crop damage, and then search for the insect on the host plant or adjacent trees and shrubs.