Leaf-Footed Bugs, Family Coreidae

Habits and Traits of Leaf-Footed Bugs

Eastern leaf-footed bug.
The eastern leaf-footed bug is a common species in North America. Russ Ottens, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Leaf-footed bugs (Family Coreidae) will grab your attention when several of these large insects gather on a tree or garden plant. Many members of this family have noticeable leaf-like extensions on their hind tibia, and this is the reason for their common name.

Description:

Members of the family Coreidae tend to be fairly large in size, with the largest reaching almost 4 cm in length. North American species usually range from 2-3 cm.

The leaf-footed bug has a tiny head relative to its body, with a four-segmented beak and four-segmented antennae. The pronotum is both wider and longer than the head.

A leaf-footed bug's body is typically elongate and often dark in color, although tropical species can be quite colorful. The coreid's forewings have many parallel veins, which you should be able to see if you look closely.

The most commonly encountered North American leaf-footed bugs are probably those of the genus Leptoglossus. Eleven Leptoglossus species inhabit the U.S. and Canada, including the western conifer seed bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) and the eastern leaf-footed bug (Leptoglossus phyllopus). Our largest coreid is the giant mesquite bug, Thasus acutangulus, and at up to 4 cm long, it lives up to its name.

Classification:

Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Arthropoda
Class – Insecta
Order – Hemiptera
Family - Coreidae

Diet:

As a group, the leaf-footed bugs mostly feed on plants, often eating the seeds or fruit of the host.

Some, like the squash bug, can do considerable damage to crops.  A few leaf-footed bugs may be predaceous.

Life Cycle:

Like all true bugs, leaf-footed bugs undergo simple metamorphosis with three life stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The female usually deposits her eggs on the underside of foliage of the host plant.

Flightless nymphs hatch and molt through several instars until reaching adulthood. Some leaf-footed bugs overwinter as adults.

Certain coreids, most notably the golden egg bug (Phyllomorpha laciniata), demonstrate a form of parental care for their young. Instead of depositing eggs on a host plant, where the young could easily fall victim to predators or parasites, the female deposits her eggs on other adult leaf-footed bugs of her species. This may lessen mortality rates for her offspring.

Special Behaviors and Defenses:

In some species, the male leaf-footed bugs establish and defend their territories from intrusion by other males. These coreids often have enlarged femora on the hind legs, sometimes with sharp spines, which they use as weapons in battles with other males.

Leaf-footed bugs have scent glands on the thorax and will emit a strong odor when threatened or handled.

Range and Distribution:

Over 1,800 species of leaf-footed bugs live throughout the world. Only about 80 species inhabit North America, mainly in the south.

Sources:

  • Borror & DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects, 7th edition, by Charles A. Triplehorn and Norman F. Johnson.
  • Encyclopedia of Entomology, 2nd edition, edited by John L. Capinera.