Often when you see an insect, only one life stage is present.
That wasn’t true with the leaf-footed bugs we spotted today. There’s an adult on the right. It has full wings and big flaps on its hind legs, which gives it the name “leaf-footed bug.” On the left is a large nymph with smaller flaps and stubby wing pads. So, what is the smaller orange insect?
Turns out that is a small leaf-footed bug nymph. Isn’t it amazing how different it looks from the adult. It doesn’t have flaps on its legs at all.
The adult looks like it is standing over the nymph and protecting it. A little research reveals that leaf-footed bugs are an example of insects that exhibit parental care. In fact, when scientists removed leaf-footed bug adults from their young and placed them on a nearby plant, the adult bugs flew back to the nymphs and stayed with them.
In case you were wondering, these leaf-footed bugs are feeding on the fruit of a datura or moonflower plant.
If you are interested in learning more, here’s a .pdf of a Scientific American article about parental care in insects (hosted at Colorado). Very cool!
How do I get rid of them? They’re eating our tomato plants!
Your local Cooperative Extension office likely has Master Gardener volunteers who would be more than happy to help you with gardening pest questions. Usually they have county offices.