Tuesday, June 17, 2014

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Backyard Bugs: Leaf-footed Bug

The first bug in our Backyard Bug series is the Leaf-footed Bug:

Leaf-footed bugs are easy to spot because their back legs are flattened in a leaf-like shape,

There are actually over 1900 species of leaf-footed bugs with a variety of body shapes and lengths ranging from 1/2 an inch to 2 inches.  The southeastern United States has seven leaf-footed bug species.

Most leaf-footed bugs are herbivores and enjoy fruits and plant sap.  They have pointy mouth parts that can easily suck up sap.  Some leaf-footed bugs can be major pests in fruit orchards.

Leaf-footed bugs rarely bite, though there are reports of people claiming to have been bitten.  The leaf-footed bug's preferred defense mechanism is releasing a nasty smelling liquid on whatever is bothering them.

What do skunks and leaf-footed bugs have in common?
They can both make strong smells!

Birds, spiders, and some bugs all eat leaf-footed bugs.

Adult leaf-footed bugs can spend the winter under leaf litter, weeds, or tree bark.  In the spring, they come out and lay eggs on plant stems and leaves.  The eggs hatch about a week later, and the new "nymphs" (or baby leaf-footed bugs) will grow and molt 5 times before becoming an adult.

Immature leaf-footed bugs go through 5 instars before becoming an adult.

With Your Preschooler:

Observe the leaf-footed bug in a small container
(unless you want to risk getting smelly!).
How does it walk?  Can you walk like a leaf-footed bug?
Can you see the "leafs" on its back legs?  Why do you think it has those leafs?  Try taking a leaf from a plant and "hiding" it in a bush with many other leafs.  What if you were a bug?  Could you hide better if part of you looked like a leaf?

Be sure to join us next week when we learn about the Monarch Butterfly  and check out the other bugs in our Backyard Bugs Series here!!

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