So, you need to get rid of leaf-footed bugs roaming your yard. And you want to do it naturally.
These giant, weirdly-shaped bugs are crawling all over your fruits and vegetables.
They have those alarming colors.
And those giant rear leafy legs.
And they fly.
Large swarms of these pests will destroy your crops. That’s why you need to get rid of them ASAP.
In this article, we’ll talk about:
- Why you have leaf footed bugs
- Ways to naturally get rid of them
- How to keep them away from your garden
- And more
By the end of this page, you should have a solid foundation to start your DIY bug control plan.
If you have any questions, just leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
Let’s get rid of those leaf footers and send them flying.
What’s a leaf-footed bug?
A leaf-footed bug is a common garden pest that’s often found feeding on edible plants.
They’re known for their piercing mouthpieces which they use to suck out nutrients from plants like a mosquito.
These pests are a minor bug that consumes fruits, vegetables, grains, ornamentals, nuts, seeds, citrus, and other crops.
They have a shield-like back with long, leaf-like rear limbs. Leaf-footed bugs are harmless when their numbers are in check.
But when you have large groups of them, they can really destroy your garden.
With their leafy hindquarters and long antennae, many people are afraid to go near them because of danger.
These bugs are harmless to humans even though they have those striking bands across their backs.
But only if you could say the same for your plants- which they’ll eat up without hesitation.
That’s why you need to get rid of leaf-footed bugs as soon as you see them!
Leaf-footed bugs have a few other names due to their unique shape:
- Squash bugs
- Twig wilters
- Leaf footers
- Tip wilters
- Leaf bugs
- Shield bugs
- Leaf-footed coreid
- Acanthocephala terminalis
- Dock bug
- Western conifer seed bug
Their unique leafy legs provide them with a bunch of nicknames across the US.
Types of leaf footed bugs
Leaf footed bugs are part of the Coreidae family, which contains over 1900 species.
There are eastern, western, and plant-specific species. They’re found within the US, mainly in the southern US states from California to Florida.
They’re also spotted in Mexico and Costa Rica.
New York, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Panama, Brazil, Floria, and California all have sightings. Even states like Colorado and Utah have reports, as does Long Island.
Leaf footed bugs have a unique appearance, but can be often confused with stink bugs or kissing bugs (assassin bugs).
Adult leaf footers have a long and leaflike “shield” body shape that’s ovular in appearance.
The shape tapers down at the tail end with striking white bands across the back. Their rear legs also have protrusions that are very noticeable with leaf-like structure.
They change color as they morph from nymph to adult. Each instar makes them bigger and develops their appearance as well as alters the color.
When they’re young, they’re bright red. As they become adults, their color changes to silver, black, or gray.
Leaf footed bugs are about ¾” at full size, but can be a lot bigger depending on the specific species and environment.
Confusing with stink bugs and kissing bugs
Leaf footed bugs are very similar in appearance to both stink bugs and kissing bugs (assassin bugs).
However, you can tell the difference between them with a sharp eye.
- Shielded back, but not elongated like the leaf footer
- Banded patterning on the edges of the shield
- yellow/red nymphs with gray or green adults
- ¾” in length
- Eats plants
- Long and ovular shape with a visible snout
- Long fang visible on the face
- Orange markings and flaring sides
- Eats bugs
- Up to 1” in length
- Orange when young, gray/black when adult
Think you have the wrong pest?
Leaf-footed bug life cycle
Leaf footed bugs have a simple life cycle.
They go through a simple metamorphosis which transforms them into an adult from a nymph.
After mating with a male, the female deposits a line of cylindrical eggs on the bottom of leaves or stems of plants.
The nymphs emerge and start consuming the host plant. They’ll go through multiple changes (instars) until they become full size.
The eggs are laid in rows with red/orange coloration and flat bottoms.
They hatch in 7 days on average depending on temperatures and species.
The baby leaf footed bugs are just like the adults, but smaller and wingless.
The coloration starts bright but dulls to gray or black over time.
Flightless nymphs will stay on the host plant to consume it. The nymphs will take about 30 days to complete 5 instars.
They reach adult size after a month or so depending on environmental conditions, climate, and food availability.
Nymphs have flat hind legs that are present only in the final few molts and are wingless.
Adults are about ¾” in in length and fully capable of flight. They have full wings and flattened hind legs.
As adults, they can fly between different
plants and such he nutrients out of it, which leads to damage. They can also mate and breed, which will further damage your edible crops.
This is why you need to get rid of them, whether adults or nymphs.
The winter doesn’t kill all leaf bugs. Some will overwinter as adults and come out next spring.
Finding and removing leaf-footed bug eggs
The eggs of these pests are easy to spot because of their unique shape and color.
They’re orangish to brown and are cylindrical. They’re often deposited on stems or leaves and look like a long, tiny tunnel.
You can remove these eggs when you come across them to prevent future generations of leaf footed bugs hatching.
You should be doing this when you comb through your plants every week or so. This doesn’t seem like much and it is a lot of work.
But it does help put a dent in their population over time. Remember to use gloves and long sleeves when working outdoors.
What do giant leaf footed bugs eat?
Leaf footed bugs eat a variety of foliage. They’re not carnivorous, so they don’t bite humans (which is good).
But they will wreak havoc on your plants if you don’t treat and kill them early.
These bugs are voracious and will consume fruits, veggies, ornamental plants, and even nuts!
They can do this because of their sharp, piercing mouthparts that let them puncture the plant and then suck up the nutrients like a straw.
They also eat seeds, which happens to be one of their favorite things to consume.
Some other foods they eat are:
They eat a wide variety of plant matter.
Plant damage from leaf footed bugs
These pests are voracious and won’t let up until they’ve sucked up all the plant sap.
They’re armed with sucking mouthparts that allow them to pierce and puncture all sorts of plants- even hardened ones like nut plants.
They use their piercing-sucking probe to suck out nutrients from shoots, leaves, and plant juices.
Although minor infestations of these pests will rarely do any permanent damage, large groups of them can wreak havoc and destroy plants- especially younger ones.
Established plants are of no concern.
Feeding on the leaves and shoots rarely results in visible damage, so you may not even see anything until you catch one eating your fruit.
However, some other notable damages are easily visible, such as fruit abortion, fruit color changes, or fruit depressions.
Holes, stunted growth, or failed harvests are also observed.
The extent of the damage depends on the severity of your infestation, the plant type, and how established it is.
Every single infestation is different. You’ll need to assess the situation and act accordingly.
Don’t overreact and keep cool.
Do leaf footed bugs fly?
Yes, they’re fully capable of flight.
Even though they may look like a stink bug with no wings, they can fly the skies.
Their flight behavior doesn’t come often though. They’d rather rest and forage on your veggies and fruits than soar across the air.
Do giant leaf footed bugs bite?
Leaf footed bugs are pretty big. They can scare some people, especially adult bugs.
Because of their weird shape and large overall size, people may consider them to be poisonous or harmful.
However, both nymphs and adults don’t bite.
They’re harmless towards humans and their main target is your edible fruits and vegetables. If you don’t do anything to get rid of them, they’ll ruin your garden.
Plus, it’s important to control them with natural, chemical-free means.
Because after all, you’ll be eating those plants.
So you want to minimize any exposure to dangerous chemical compounds that linger around after you spray them.
They’re also not known to transmit any diseases or bacteria to humans.
Sure, they look frightening with their huge size and shield-like figure. But they’re not interested in eating you. They just want your plants!
Are leaf footed bugs bad?
Leaf footed bugs aren’t bad if you only have a few of them in your yard.
They only pose a threat to your plants when they show up in huge numbers.
Having just a few of them roaming around and foraging for food is normal and to be expected due to their prevalence.
But if you have large groups of them over time, they can do some damage to your edible plants. They can also alter the fruit color due to a strain of yeast they carry.
The point to take home is that these bugs will breed and form large nests over time.
As there’s plenty of food available in your garden, they’ll keep coming and foraging for food. More and more will appear and their numbers jump up exponentially.
When you have swarms of them roaming your plants, they can destroy your harvest and mess up your garden.
So that’s why you need a plan of action and to treat the pest infestation immediately. Don’t go easy on them.
How do you get rid of leaf footed bugs naturally?
Here are some DIY home remedies you can use to get rid of leaf footed bugs from your yard.
Most of them are completely natural, and some are organic.
The key is to use a bunch of them and see what works best for your specific infestation.
There is no single best way to get rid of them- you’ll have to use a combination of different techniques to see what works for you.
I suggest using 2-3 remedies at the same time to be efficient and get rid of the leaf bugs quickly.
Never crush them
A word to the wise: never hold leaf footed bugs for an extended period or crush them.
Just like stink bugs, they’ll emit a disgusting, foul odor when they’re threatened or squashed.
You do NOT want them to do this or else you’re in for a bad time.
So act quickly when you get near any leaf footed bug. Wear goggles, gloves, and long-sleeved clothing. Put on your PPE.
Note that the smell they emit stains and is difficult to remove from some materials. So only use clothing or tools you don’t care about or are ready to discard.
Remove bugs manually
One way to surely get rid of the leaf footed bugs is to remove them by hand. Manually.
Although those who are squeamish won’t enjoy this, the rest of us can use this method to quickly reduce the bug population.
The trick is to be consistent and check your plants daily.
Over time, this will slowly but surely reduce their numbers.
First, put on a pair of sturdy garden gloves. Leaf footed bugs will release a nasty chemical odor when disturbed.
And since you’re grabbing them, they’ll likely attempt to attack you with this unpleasant odor. If you’ve dealt with stink bugs before, it’s very similar.
Use a material that’s easy to wash since this scent will be difficult to remove. Rubber is recommended.
You’ll also want to use long-sleeved clothing and a pair of goggles.
Second, get a bucket and fill it up halfway with water from your hose. Add a few tablespoons of dish detergent and. Then continue filling so the suds form.
This will be your DIY leaf footed bug pesticide.
Lastly, scan your infested plant for signs of leaffooters. They’re most likely to be found hiding where the leaves are dense in small clusters.
Pull each leaf bunch apart and check for pests. They may be hiding under the leaves or on the stems or branches on your plants.
You may also notice sudden activity as they try to run away.
Leaf footed bugs can also fly, so you may see them jump and fly into the air. This is why you need goggles.
Leaves that have ropey eggs on the underside are a sure sign of a leaf footed bug infestation. Take careful notice of these leaves.
Remove any bugs you come across and toss them into the bucket of soap water. This will kill them instantly.
You can also remove entire leaves and drop the leaf into the water to kill any possibility of the nymph pests hatching.
Both adult and baby leaf footers will be killed by the soapy water. If you find that they’re not drowning and floating to the surface of the bucket, add more dish soap.
The concentration may be too low.
Shake the plant
If you don’t want to touch the bugs, you can position the bucket right below the leaves.
Give the branches a good shake and the bugs will fall off right into the bucket!
Use a stick or long rod if you’re afraid to approach the bugs.
Use a vacuum
If you have a handheld portable vacuum or a canister vacuum, use it to suck up the leaf footed bugs.
This proves to be an easy and effective way to remove them.
But be sure to empty the bag or canister when you’re done. They can escape your vacuum cleaner and infest another part of your garden.
Dispose of them safely or into a container of soapy water to kill them.
Leaf footed bug neem oil
Neem oil has been reported to be effective against leaf footed bugs.
This is a concentrated natural spray that’s derived from the neem plant.
While it can kill leaf-footed bugs, you should keep in mind that it’s a very powerful oil and should be used with care.
You buy it and then dilute it to a safe concentration. Then you spray your plants with it.
Do it in the early morning or evening when there’s no sun out. The neem covers up the leaves and forms a barrier against bugs and prevents them from snacking on it.
Wash off the excess oil when you’re done spraying. Use as directed.
And follow a video tutorial on how to do it right:
DE is a pure, natural powder that can be used to dehydrate hard-shelled bugs. Leaf footed bugs are no exception.
They make contact with the DE and it sticks to their shells, causing a lot of micro-cuts all over their exoskeleton. They leak precious fluids and will dehydrate over time.
DE comes in two popular forms:
- Pool grade diatomaceous earth
- Food grade diatomaceous earth
Buy the food-grade DE. It’s usually organic and completely pure (people drink it).
So you can use it all over your organic veggies and fruits without worry. Use as directed and read the label.
Sprinkle the DE on the parts of the plant where you see leaf footed bug activity. The point is to make them touch the powder so that it sticks to them.
Wind and water will diminish the results, so reapply after heavy winds or rain.
Your sprinkler or plant watering habits may also affect it. So try to avoid getting the DE wet after you apply it on your plants.
Kaolin clay can be used as a deterrent to leaf footed bugs.
This is a unique clay that “masks” the leaves of your targeted plants and makes them hard to distinguish to pests.
The point of this clay is that it makes it hard for pests to target them in the first place.
If the leaves don’t look appealing to them, then why would they eat it?
This method is hit or miss, but if you’re running out of ideas to get rid of the pests, don’t overlook kaolin clay.
It’s safe for most plants and many times safer than using poisonous compounds all over your organic garden!
Use as directed by the label on the product.
Try companion planting
Companion planting can help alleviate some of the infestations by adding plants that automatically repel pests.
The same goes for using plants to attract leaf footed bugs AWAY from your edible plants.
So basically, it acts as a decoy plant. You can use low-value ornamental plants to do this.
Put them around the perimeter of your yard so when leaf-footed bugs fly in, they see these decoy plants first and infest them.
This will warn you that there are leaf-footed bugs present and you can act accordingly (set up row covers, get pesticides ready, etc.).
The eggs of leaf footed bugs are easy to spot.
You’ll want to remove any you come across by pruning the leaves daily.
Prune off damaged leaves and scan the plant on the stem and underside of leaves to find any eggs. They’re easy to see and identify.
The eggs are thin, short, and laid in rows.
Leaf footed eggs are brown and often found on the stems and leaves of the plant. They’re cylinder-shaped. You can use a toothbrush and brush them off.
Dunk the brush right into a bucket of soapy water to kill the eggs.
You need to do this daily to put a dent in their population. If you remove all the eggs, there won’t be any more leaf footed nymphs to continue the cycle.
Weeds are a stain upon your garden and harbor leaf footed bugs like crazy.
Adult pests will eat these weeds in your yard as they provide a stable food source for them.
Remove all weeds from your garden where possible. Weeds like thistle, grass, and overgrown junky plants should all be pulled.
Keep your lawn mowed and never let your plants overgrow. Keep them pruned and tidy at all times.
Keeping your plants pruned and tidy is critical to keeping a pest-free garden.
You’ll want to do regular sweeps of your garden to keep it free of overgrown foliage.
This means cleaning up leaf clutter, removing leaf waste, trimming overgrown plants, and regularly removing damaged or wilted foliage.
Don’t leave dead leaves and plants hanging around. It becomes food for a variety of bugs.
Plus, pruning helps remove hiding places for leaf footed bugs and many others.
An unkempt year is just asking for trouble.
So make sure you do some yard work and keep it maintained week after week.
If you don’t have time for this and you’re dealing with constant pest problems, consider hiring a gardener or going bare concrete, sand, or just plain dirt.
No plants. No problems. Right?
Get rid of hiding places
Leaf footed bugs need somewhere to hide, and this often happens to be clutter or debris around your yard.
Keep it clean and tidy at all times so they have nowhere to protect themselves from predators and cold temperatures.
This will make your garden less favorable to them and they’ll leave.
Some common areas where leaf footed bugs hide are:
- Leaf litter
- Fruit shells
- Plant containers
- Palm trees
- Citrus trees
- Patio furniture
- Storage deck boxes
You need to check each of these potential hiding places and make sure that there are no bugs present.
If you find eggs or leaf bugs, you need to clean it out and add some natural repellent to keep them away.
The best thing to do is to remove it entirely. Or block access.
Remove as many hiding places as you possibly can.
Seal up, caulk, or block off things you can’t.
Leaf footed bugs will hide in cracks, crevices, leaves, and even potted plants. Reducing their hiding places means they’re exposed to predators and cold weather.
This encourages them to permanently leave your garden because there’s nowhere suitable for them shelter.
Leaf footed bugs seek debris and clutter to shelter themselves.
They need this so they can protect themselves from the cold winter.
Remember that these bugs overwinter, so they’re not killed by the cold. To accomplish this, they find an area to hide.
And woodpiles are one of the most common places leaf footed bugs hide.
If you store wood outside in your yard, consider keeping it on a raised platform or completely locking it down so no bugs can get to it.
Wood attracts all sorts of bugs like potato borers, so you should NEVER leave it exposed to the elements.
Use row covers
Floating row covers are safe for your plants and provide them with water and sunlight, but keep leaf footed bugs out (and plenty of other bugs like recluse spiders, striped cucumber beetles and muskmelon bugs.).
Row covers should be custom fitted to your plants and securely tied around the plants you want to be protected.
Even the smallest gap provides the bugs a way to get under, so be sure you install the cover correctly.
There are different designs and variations, so you’ll have to choose the right one according to your plant type.
Row covers should be added throughout the spring and summer to keep leaf footed bugs out. If you’re growing plants that self pollinate, such as tomatoes, these covers work best.
They keep beneficial bugs out also like bees which can help pollination. That’s why you should only use them on plants that can pollinate themselves and don’t rely on external pollinators.
Even after you add the row covers, you still need to check for pest activity “under the covers.”
Supposed leaf footed bugs trapped under the cover, they’ll breed and eat your plants right out under your eyes!
Plus, don’t forget about OTHER bugs trapped under the row covers.
However, once you do a little research, you should be set.
Here’s a video showing off the process of adding a row cover to your plants:
Note that you can even make your own row covers if you can’t find a custom-fitted one.
Attract natural predators of leaf footed bugs
Leaf footed bugs are a tasty meal for many other predators.
You can set up your yard to attract these hungry bugs that’ll gobble up leaf footed bugs like no other.
The trick is to find out what bugs prey on them. And then find how to bring more of them to your garden.
Depending on where you live and what species are native to your area, you can do some reading and see what species are already present.
Here are a few of the most common natural predators that eat leaf footed bugs:
- Tachinid flies
- Predatory wasps
- Reptiles (lizards, snakes, etc.)
- Assassin bugs
- Other predatory pests
If you do some research on each one and find out how to bring more of them to your garden, they can help reduce the number of leaf-footed bugs overall. The most promising one is birds.
Birds are everywhere no matter where you live. You can definitely find at least a few species that’ll eat leaf footed bugs.
You can attract birds by:
- Putting up birdhouses
- Adding a birdbath
- Providing a source of food (birdseed, bird feeders, etc.)
Birds remember yards that have plenty of food and know to come back to feed.
Thus, you create a swarm of birds that will help you eat up the leaf footed bugs on a daily basis. You just need to provide the food, water, and shelter for them.
There are plenty of birds that eat them. And you can attract the right one with the right seed type.
You must have at least one bird nearby that’ll gladly eat them up!
Don’t underestimate the power of natural predators!
Hire a pest control company
If you can’t handle the bug problem yourself, then hire a pro to do it for you.
Research some local pest control companies that offer green or natural solutions.
Call them for a quote. Read reviews. And choose the best one. They often will come back to kill the leaf footed bugs if they don’t get rid of them the first time around.
This is the perfect solution for those that don’t have the time or energy to take care of the pest problems themselves.
Pesticides for leaf footed bugs
When you run out of options to exterminate them using home remedies, you may have to use commercial grade pesticides to eliminate the pests.
While I always suggest using this as a last resort, some bug infestations are just too difficult to deal with so a commercial spray may be more efficient.
However, only do it after you’ve tried a variety of DIY, natural remedies.
The worst part about using store-bought sprays is that they leave behind nasty residues that are dangerous- especially if you have edible plants like fruits and veggies.
Opt for an organic or natural spray when possible. And always use as directed.
Look for sprays with permethrin, which is proven to kill leaf footed bugs. Most sprays will be applied in early spring before the eggs hatch.
However, there are often other detrimental effects like damage to the environment and other beneficial bugs.
So you should only use it if you need to. Read the label before using any commercial poison.
Some other options you should consider are horticultural oils and natural insecticidal soap.
Both of these have good results to kill leaf footed bugs and can be used to eradicate severe pest problems.
Will Sevin kill leaf footed bugs?
Sevin dust can kill leaf footed bugs, but I’d only use it as a last resort.
After all, the bugs are likely to eat your fruits and veggies, which you do NOT want poisons nearby.
Using these kinds of commercial sprays leave behind nasty and dangerous chemical residues, which you shouldn’t feel comfortable with all over your edible plants.
Always use natural, DIY home remedies first. And if nothing else works, you can consider using pesticides from the store.
Or if the pests are eating plants that you don’t plan to consume or you just need to get rid of an infestation out in the middle of nowhere, using Sevin to kill leaf-footed pests is an option.
How to get rid of leaf-footed bugs on pomegranates
There’s nothing special you have to do to control, manage, and eradicate these bugs on your pomegranates.
Start with the basics- apply essential oils, sprinkle diatomaceous earth, spray dish soap, attract predators, and remove leaf footed bugs manually. This will help deter and repel them from your poms.
Over time, you can add additional measures like sticky traps or sticky tape. There are also DIY leaf bug sprays you can make (dish soap, essential oil repellents, etc.) that may help keep them off your plants.
Scan the section prior to see a list of DIY methods to control leaf bugs.
How to get rid of leaf-footed bugs in the house
If you have these bugs in your home, you should seal up all the possible entry points they’re using to get in.
The last you want is to wake up to one of these nasty bugs crawling on your arm in the middle of the night. Or how about finding one snacking on your fruits when you walk into your kitchen in the morning.
There’s no particular reason why they’d come into your home. I’d guess that they’re only inside because they somehow wandered their way in and now can’t get out.
Perhaps the temperature was nicer in your house. Or there was a source of food and water. Or maybe you smuggled one in when you bought that new plant or harvested your fruits/veggies.
Take action and do something.
Check your entire home for entry points:
- Damaged window or patio door screens
- Under doorframes
- Worn weatherstripping
- Various cracks and crevices throughout the walls or exterior
- Foundational damage
- Pet doors
Cracks or gaps between doors and windows
Find, assess, and fix any potential entryways so you can keep them out of your home. If it becomes a problem, you should hire a professional to spot the area they’re using to get inside.
And don’t forget about checking new plants you buy.
Always quarantine them first.
And when you harvest your fruits and veggies, make sure they’re free of leaf footed bugs so you don’t carry them into your house.
Here are some additional references you may find useful:
- Leaffooted Bug Management Guidelines–UC IPM
- Leaffooted Bugs: An Increasing Problem in Gardens – UCANR
- Leaf-footed bugs – Wikipedia
Did you get rid of the leaf footed bugs naturally?
That’s about it.
By now, you should have a solid foundation of knowledge to use against these annoying pests and keep them out of your yard.
They’re not that hard to get rid of if you just have some patience and persistence.
Remember that using just one or two home remedies is pointless.
Use a bunch at the same time and see what works. Scale-up what does. Stop what doesn’t. Save yourself time and be efficient.
There’s no single “best” way to quickly get rid of leaf footed bugs.
Any resource that claims this is lying. Every single pest problem is different and requires a different approach.
Your job is to find out yours.
If you have any questions, post them in the comment section below. Or if you’ve handled leaf footed bugs before, leave a comment and help out fellow readers!
Also, if you found this article useful, please let me know! Or if anything needs to be updated/corrected.
I try to keep this page as updated as possible with working methods to get rid of these pests naturally.
Thanks for reading.
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.