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In the garden…leaf footed bugs

Note: Once a week I share a popular post from the archives. This post was originally published in June 2012.

Leaf footed bugs can cause a lot of damage to crops like tomatoes, pecans, peaches and tender young crops. Learn how to control them organically.

We planted several different varieties of tomatoes this year. We planted Rutgers, Romas, Purple Cherokee, Lemon Boy, Yellow Pear and Yellow Cherry tomatoes. They have all done well and after the season is over I’ll share my thoughts on each variety in the season wrap up.

SchneiderPeeps - tomatoesBut last week I noticed some Leaf footed Bugs on them…

SchneiderPeeps - Leaffooted bugs can cause serious damage to your tomatoes. Learn how to control them organically. Here’s the adults. They’re kind of big and ugly looking. They’re related to the stink bug and they suck the juices out of the tomatoes. 

SchneiderPeeps - Leaffooted bug babies
Here’s some babies and even though they are smaller they are no less destructive than the adults.
SchneiderPeeps - Leaffooted bugs can cause serious damage to your tomatoes. Learn how to control them organically.
Here’s the damage they do. There will be soft watery spots on the tomato and then bacteria can start growing in it…yuck!
Each day while we’re out in the garden we’re looking for these guys and squashing them because that is our favorite pest control method. Now they are related to the stink bug…you might want to consider that before you squash yours. Other than spraying with something that will kill all bugs (including bees) there’s not much else to do at this point. 
But here’s something interesting I’ve observed…
  • The Rutger tomatoes are the most covered. We have 2 beds with this variety one at each end of the tomato area and both beds have a lot more leaf footed bugs than the other beds.
  • The Romas are the next susceptible.
  • I’ve only seen a few of these on the Lemon Boy.
  • I’ve not found any on the Purple Cherokee or the small tomatoes. I’m not saying they’ve never had any, I’m just saying I’ve not ever seen these bugs on the them nor have I’ve seen any leaffooted damage on the Purple Cherokees or the small bugs.
It’ll be interesting when the season is over to figure out an average of how many pounds of fruit each tomato plant produced and to see what varieties did the best.
 

Want to know more about leaf footed bugs? 

“Leaf footed bug” refers to a wide variety of bugs that have a widened lower leg. Here are some great photos and classifications from BugGuide. Not only do they like tomatoes, they also like pecans, prickly pear, peaches and many other tender young plants and beans. They insert their sharp mouth into the fruit and suck the juices out. They leave some saliva in the fruit which causes it to stop growing and rot. 
 
The Life Cycle of Leaffooted Bugs
  • There is only one generation per season (which is a good thing).
  • They overwinter in sheltered spots.
  • They emerge in the spring and mate.
  • They lay white eggs on the underside of leaves. 

Prevention

  • This is a hard bug to completely get rid of but citrus oil products can help a heavy infestation. 
  • Birds, snakes, lizards, spiders and frogs – we often relocate lizards and spiders to our garden from other areas of our property. 
  • Parasitic flies such as the tachinid fly will also help.
  • Hand to hand combat – basically you clap your hands together squashing the bug. (Gross but effective)  
  • I did have a friend tell me that hyacinth beans and sunflowers attract leaf footed bugs and that she plants them near, but not in, her garden so that the bugs will eat the beans and sunflowers and leave the tomatoes alone. We might try that next year.
Have you ever had these bugs? Is there another organic way of getting rid of them?
 
Leaf footed bugs can cause a lot of damage to crops like tomatoes, pecans, peaches and tender young crops. Learn how to control them organically.
 
You can find information about other fruits and veggies by searching clicking on the In The Garden tab up top or in The Gardening Notebook.
 

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Terry

Monday 16th of November 2020

The homemade pest spray I have had success with is 1Tbls liquid dish soap (Dawn) in a spray bottle filled with water. This immobilizes and kills the soft body nymphs and. An be washed off your plants,

Angi Schneider

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

Thanks for sharing, Terry!

Sherry

Saturday 11th of March 2017

I have had good luck breaking off small willow limbs and sticking them through the tops of my tomato cages. The strong smell seems to fool the bugs and they go elsewhere. It also gives my tomatoes a bit of shade until the leaves get dry. The strong willow smell stays even after the leaves dry and begin to fall off. By then the bugs are usually gone anyway.

Angi Schneider

Sunday 12th of March 2017

Thanks for the tip Sherry! I will have to try that this year.

Elizabeth

Wednesday 21st of September 2016

Hi Angi-- I know this has been going for several years but I have to tell you about the cleanest, easiest, most successful and least toxic way to control leaffooted bugs. They don't swim well, so drown them! Use a container with a wide mouth (like empty Costco 2.5 lb mixed nut plastic containers) . Fill part way with sudsy water (a bit of dishwashing detergent does the trick). Hold it under the bugs, tap the leaf or tomato or whatever they are on, and knock them into the water. You can even dunk a whole group of tiny nymphs (on a tomato like in your photo, for example) into the water! For adults, hold the container just below and in front of them; 99% of the time they will jump right into the water. The suds aren't mandatory, but it takes care of the bugs more quickly. This method also works for other stinkbugs. Happy hunting!

Angi Schneider

Thursday 22nd of September 2016

Hi Elizabeth, thanks so much for the tip! I will definitely be trying it next year when these little guys come back. I think with this method I can even get my kids to help.

Linda

Tuesday 5th of May 2015

hi there wat is the best way to get rid of spider mite naturally does espsom salts and water sprayed on them work

Angi Schneider

Tuesday 5th of May 2015

Neem oil would probably work better for spider mites.

Rachel E.

Tuesday 24th of March 2015

Yuck Angie! That looks really bad. Reminds me of the squash bugs on my zucchini last year. They were so destructive. I had stink bugs on my tomatoes, but not too terribly bad. I hope to be on top of the bugs this year. Last year I also had a large amount of bean beetles, but I still got a really good harvest from my beans considering I only had one row. I was pleased.