LEAF-FOOTED BUG INVASION
New Port Richey
Urban Agriculture Project
East Madison Growers may be discovering a rather scary looking insect on some of their vegetables. It is called a “leaf-footed bug,” and it can be very abundant some years – like this one. They seem to really like tomatoes, although plenty of other vegetables are on their list – including okra. Another East Madison Grower reported a large colony, and the one tomato plant in Friendship Farms south garden has them on the fruit — a lot of them! On the other hand, the Mesoamerican Grape Tomatoes in the north garden do not have a single one!
The Mesoamerican was a volunteer from seeds of last year’s plants (or maybe a stray seed from those I sprouted this year). Those seeds were from Seed Savers Exchange or from our own nursery. The plant in the south garden was also a volunteer, but I don’t know what variety it was or its origin.
Check out these sites for more information on the leaf-footed bug:
They can damage the fruit if there are enough of them, but they are not toxic and do not appear to carry toxins. They emit a strong order if killed — “stink bugs.” I brush them off the tomatoes when I harvest.
My general approach to this sort of thing is to plant a lot of the plant the insect likes. Usually there is much more fruit than the insects can consume, and if there are a lot of insects, that usually gets the attention of predators. Of course, in this case, the challenge is that tomatoes are hard to grown in any quantity in the summer — and so, this insect is another reason not to try tomatoes in the summer. Try peppers….