Garden Detective

Garden detective: Leaf-footed bugs creeping around Sacramento

We found these odd bugs in our garden. They are not stink bugs but something else that we and our neighbors have never seen. They seem to mainly enjoy tomato plants. Help us identify these creatures and tell us how to get rid of them.

Barbara Queen, Fair Oaks

According to retired state entomologist and master rosarian Baldo Villegas, your mystery insects are “leaf-footed bugs,” true bugs in the insect order Hemiptera and family Coreidae. They belong to the genus Leptoglossus, which has several species across the country.

“Right now, I am being inundated by pictures and specimens of leaf-footed bugs, mainly taken on tomatoes,” Villegas said.

So are Sacramento County master gardeners, who have seen several of these bugs. The leaf-footed bugs are often confused with the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), which have cropped up in midtown Sacramento and other areas.

“The common name for this group of true bugs is ‘leaf-footed bugs’ because of the flatten tibia in the back legs,” he explained. “I am not sure which species this is without actual specimens. The common one around here is Leptoglossus clypealis, which is a pest of pistachios, almonds and pomegranates and a general nuisance pest of the garden.

“The females generally lay groups of shiny golden eggs on leaves of host trees,” he added. “The eggs hatch usually about the same time and they generally feed in groups as there is usually a pheromone that keeps the group together. This is also a clue to how to control them.”

Villegas’ advice: Shake them off the bush.

“I consider these bugs a nuisance pest rather than a garden pest as one can easily control them by just shaking them into a bucket containing soapy water,” he said. “Once the bugs hit the soapy water, they usually drown.

According to the UC master gardeners, leaf-footed bugs overwinter as adults in debris, woodpiles, loose bark and other garden refuse.