Sacramento Digs Gardening logo
Sacramento Digs Gardening Article
Your resource for Sacramento-area gardening news, tips and events

Articles Recipe Index Keyword Index Calendar Twitter Facebook Instagram About Us Contact Us

Leaf-footed bugs make early appearance

Reader Irma Hernandez-Larin wanted to know what was eating her roses. Leaf-footed bugs!
(Photo courtesy Irma Hernandez-Larin)
Over-wintering adults are laying eggs and making trouble

Be on the lookout: Leaf-footed bugs are already on the attack.

Leptoglossus zonatus has become common
in Sacramento. (
Photo courtesy UC IPM)
Our mild winter and warm spring brought an early invasion. When not killed by cold, the adults can overwinter in the garden, usually hiding out in tall grasses, wood piles or other protected spaces. When the temperatures turn warm, they come out and start laying eggs.

Those eggs will become the second generation of leaf-footed bugs, sucking the life out of early tomatoes and stone fruit. When we see so many adults in April, June and July could be especially bad.

With distinctive leaf-shaped back legs, the leaf-footed bug is a real stinker; they are closely related to stink bugs. The leaf-footed bug stabs its long mouthparts into nice juicy fruit, flower buds, seeds and other favorite targets, then sucks out the moisture.

Usually found in clusters, the young nymphs seem to appear out of nowhere, climbing over ripening fruit to look for just the right spot to dine. They quickly get big and scary-looking; adults measure more than an inch tall.

Three different species are native to California and they attack a wide range of crops and ornamental plants. The most common in Sacramento is Leptoglossus zonatus . Fortunately, damage often is only cosmetic.

In home gardens, they primarily attack tomatoes, pomegranates and roses. They also have a huge appetite for almonds, pistachios, citrus and watermelon. But L. zonatus is opportunistic; it eats lots of different fruit, vegetables, nuts and flowers.

Leaf-footed bugs tend to hang out and breed in weedy areas (they love thistles) before moving into the tomato patch. (That’s another reason to keep weeds down.)

Catch these bad bugs while they’re young. The nymphs move slowly and can’t fly.

Knock them off into a bucket of water; add a teaspoon of liquid detergent to the water to assure a quick demise. No pesticides are necessary. But wear gloves; if touched, these bugs will make your hands stink.

During a previous leaf-footed bug invasion, I asked Sacramento's Bug Man – retired state entomologist Baldo Villegas – for his advice. Right now, watch for their distinctive eggs as well as the nymphs and adults. The eggs look like a tiny amber bracelet. (If you see these bug eggs, pick the leaf and destroy it, eggs and all.)

Leaf-footed bug eggs look like an itty-bitty
amber bracelet. (Photo courtesy UC IPM)
“The females generally lay groups of shiny golden eggs on leaves of host trees,” Villegas said. “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.”

What does he do when he sees these bugs? Shake them off the bush.


0 comments have been posted.

Newsletter Subscription

Sacramento Digs Gardening to your inbox.

Taste Fall! E-cookbook

Muffins and pumpkin

Find our fall recipes here!

Local News

Ad for California Local

Thanks to our sponsor!

Summer Strong ad for

Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

Taste Spring! E-cookbook


Find our spring recipes here!

Taste Summer! E-cookbook


Find our summer recipes here!