Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Leaf Footed Bug

Summer is the time of big bugs. I’ve always enjoyed large insects. Partly because of the ease of viewing the various insect parts and partly because of the panic they cause when flying into a crowd. Big insects found early in the season are often present because they overwintered as either pupae or adults. This Leaf-Footed Bug, Acanthocephala terminalis, spent the winter as an adult and is now busy eating, mating and laying eggs.

Even though they seem to have all of the features found in the predatory assassin bugs, these are harmless plant eaters. I guess I should qualify that by saying they are harmless to other insects. Some species are known for their ability to inflict severe damage to agricultural and garden crops.

The name leaf-footed apparently comes from this wing-like projection on the hind leg. I think I would have called it leaf-legged, since the projection is not actually on the foot.

This is a true bug. The long tube-like rostrum, is held folded back beneath the head. What we can see is the sheath that protects the stylets. The stylets are composed of four separate parts which penetrate the plant and form the feeding tube. The sheath bends out of the way when the stylets are in use and then goes back into place as the stylets are withdrawn.

Bright orange antenna tips are an easily spotted characteristic of this species. Bright coloration is usually a warning that the insect should be avoided, but I haven’t read that this particular species poses any special hazard. I did pick it up following the photo shoot and it just walked about on my hand before flying off. No bite and no odor, so those must not be its problem.

Again, just like some of the well known assassin bugs, this species has an abdomen that is not fully covered by the folded wings and shows the fingernail pattern on the top of the wing. On some species it looks like a finger nail and on others it looks like a finger print, but either way, I think it’s a really neat feature.


  1. These bugs always fascinate me. I found one in the Hill Country in TX that was HUGE! I can always count on learning something new when I come for a visit. ~karen

  2. "partly because of the panic they cause when flying into a crowd." LOL!

  3. Hi, Karen. Some of those southern bugs can really get big. I lived in Florida many years ago and remember finding some monsters.

    Hi, Susannah. I have to take my entertainment where I can get it.

  4. Ew. You people are weird, this is the most disgusting ugly bug I have ever seen.

  5. Gee Anonymous. You ought to take a look at some of the soft bodied larvae. Many people find grubs in particular to be especially awful.