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QUESTION: Are assassin bugs friend or foe to tomato plants?

comments (11) June 13th, 2010

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dragonfle dragonfle, member
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Army of Assassin Bugs at Zilker Botanical Gardens, Austin, TXPhoto by motleypixel under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

Army of Assassin Bugs at Zilker Botanical Gardens, Austin, TX

Photo by motleypixel under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

I see assassin bugs on my tomatoes but not many other bugs. However several tomatoes were damaged and rotted on the plant before they were ripe. Will the assassin bugs cause any harm to the tomatoes, or is there a hidden culprit?

posted in: tomatoes, pests

Comments (11)

bughater writes: I see several comments here saying that the assassin bug (Reduviid bug) is your friend. It may be the tomato's friend, but if it bites you, it is not very friendly, as it can transmit a trypanosome that is responsible for Chaga's disease that compromises the function of the heart and causes congestive heart failure, which can lead to death. This is the leading cause of congestive heart failure in South America. There are an estimated 300,000 cases of Chaga's disease in the U.S., so it is becoming more common. This bug used to only reside south of the U.S. and it has now moved north into the U.S. like the Africanized honey bees (Killer Honey Bees). While it will not attack you like the bees, it is certainly not best to handle the assassin bug or you may very well sustain a bite. If the bug is infected with the Trypanasome that causes Chaga's disease, then you are at high risk for contracting that, as well. I see comments here that say to treat the leaf footed nymph by picking it off by hand and putting it in a bucket of soapy water. The only problem with that is that if you do that with the assassin bug, you may get bitten. My advice would be to only pick bugs off by hand with good gloves on in the event that you have mistaken other bugs for the assassin bug instead. So, just a heads up for the big pickers. Wear gloves if you are going to pick bugs off of plants and if you get one of these ugly things on you, get it off ASAP, before it bites you. Good gardening and as always, have fun!
Posted: 1:04 am on August 24th
RuchikaaKale writes: Extremely great information:)
Posted: 2:50 am on February 26th
FitoorsRey writes: Thanks for share this post
Posted: 5:41 am on February 16th
AnnGepp writes: An entomologist once said, "if there is a bunch of them, they're leaf footed nymphs. If there's only one, it's an assassin bug." I would say those are leaf footed nymphs.
Posted: 6:33 pm on September 27th
Yellowfield writes: This picture is not of assassin bug nymphs but of leaf-footed stink bug nymphs. In the nymph stage they can be hard to tell apart. The leaf footed are always in groups and have black spots on the nymphs, while the assassin are most often single and have silver spots on them. The leaf foot is a major pest in my area and can ruin a tomoato crop before you know you even have a problem. They pierce the green tomato with their proboscis damageing the fruit, then when it ripens the area around the site gets hard stays green and does not ripen rendering the fruit unusable and a site open for moisture and pathogens to enter. Organic control is near imposable. Try insect screening to keep them out. Hand picking is an option use a can with a bit of vegetable oil in it and hold it under the bugs then move your other hand toward them and they normally drop into the can. It is necessary to know the differance because the assassin bugs eat the stink bug (leaf-footed) nymphs and other harmful insects. The leaf foot is not picky about what it eats cactus as mentioned above, corn, berries, tomatos, peppers, sunflowers they love sunflowers.
Posted: 11:41 am on April 10th
bugbattler writes: alethor is absolutely correct...the young of the leaffooted bug look very much like the assassin bug.....I took a sample of the little trouble makers in to the extention office in my area earlier this year and they told me they were assassin bugs (good bugs) so I left them alone and now I am over run with Leaffooted ADULTS and rotten tomatoes...they inject a digestive enzyme into the tomatoe and feed on it and the fruit rots because of it....pick them off and drop them into water and dish detergent...this is the most effective method of removal (or so I've been told) I have ordered a non-chemical remedy called Garlic Barrier from Gempler's...when it arrives and I try it out, I'll repost to let you know how it works....
Posted: 11:01 am on June 22nd
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: Assassin Bugs are very much your friend. They've probably taken care of the culprits that have been munching on your tomato plants.

Here's a bit more:
Posted: 12:32 am on June 15th
PatM writes: You may wish to read more about how beneficial the assassin bugs are through these google links. :o)
Posted: 6:59 pm on June 14th
PatM writes: No, don't kill the assassin bugs, they're actually a beneficial insect, and that may be the reason you don't see many other bugs on your tomatoes. It could be the assassin bugs are doing their job. :-)
Posted: 6:54 pm on June 14th
Ruth writes: alethor, the photo here is one I added. It may not represent the bugs that Dragonfle actually saw on the tomato plants.
Posted: 11:39 am on June 14th
alethor writes: They are LEAFFOOTED BUGS. I am in Dallas, TX and those bugs are just starting to appear.
Last year I was out of town often and they were out of control. KILL them as fast as you can. They are easy to catch because of their slowing metabolism. Be advised, these are members of the stink bug family. If held too long or crushed they emit a foul odor

Common Name: Leaffooted bug
Scientific Name: Leptoglossus phyllopus (Linnaeus)
Order: Hemiptera
Family: Coreidae

Description: Adults are about 3/4 inch in length and are dark brown with a whitish to yellowish stripe across the central part of the back. The hind legs have flattened, leaf-like expansions on the tibia. Nymphal stages look similar to adults except that they do not have fully developed wings.

A leaffooted bug in the genus Narnia is common on prickly pear cactus. Another species, Acanthocephala declivis (Say), is one of the largest true bugs in Texas, being over an inch in length as an adult. Adults are particularly active in the fall. Although some members of this group are predaceous, immature stages can be easily confused with assassin bugs (Reduviidae).

Broad-headed bugs (Alydidae) are similar to Coreidae, but the head is as wide at the widest portion of the throax. They grow to about 3/4 inch long and are yellow to dark brown. Immature stages remarkable resemble ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

Life cycle: Immature stages are gregarious, being found in high numbers on certain fruit where egg masses were laid.

Pest status: Plant feeder; has well developed scent glands and will emit distinctive odor when handled.

Habitat and Food Source(s), Damage: Leaffooted bugs feed on a wide variety of developing fruit, including cotton, peaches, and tomatoes, and seeds such as beans, black-eyed peas, and sorghum. They also feed on the stems and tender leaves of plants such as potatoes. Damage produced is similar to that produced by stink bugs.

Posted: 11:05 am on June 14th
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