There are 120 species of leaf-footed bugs found within the U.S. and Canada, though they are much more common in the southern portion of the States. Most range in size from about one-half inch to one inch in length and black or brown in color, though a few species are larger or have a pale stripe across their back. Many species have the lower part of their hind legs expanded and leaf-like in appearance, prompting the name “leaf-footed bug.”
Leaf-bugs are rather long bodied and have relatively long legs and antennae. Their head is narrow and small in relation to their body size. They have well-developed scent glands on each side of their body that produces a pungent smell similar to that of a stink bug.
Leaf-footed bugs lay their eggs on their host plant. In some species, the eggs are cylindrical and flat on the ends, like small kegs. The immature bugs, or nymphs, are much like the adults in form but do not have wings and are often brightly colored with red, yellow, white and black markings. They prefer to feed in groups and often 10 to 15 may be found feeding at a site.
In the southern part of their range, leaf-bugs may have two or three generations in a year. They are most active in late summer and fall. During the winter, they hide themselves in trash, plant debris, and other protected spaces. Leaf-footed bugs feed on a wide variety of host plants, including weeds, shrubs, and the tender tissue at the growing tips of tree branches. They are also found feeding on produce like tomatoes, corn, okra, pepper, potatoes, and various kinds of beans and peas (much to the frustration of their gardeners).
Look for leaf-footed bugs along roadsides and stream sides, in parks and meadows, and in your flower and vegetable garden.