Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Affinis Leaf-footed Bug, ANISOSCELIS AFFINIS

from the October 2, 2011 Newsletter issued from Mayan Beach Garden Inn 20 kms north of Mahahual, Quintana Roo, México

On Wednesday next to a passionflower vine I saw what's shown above.

Since I was a kid I've been familiar with leaf-footed bugs but never have I seen a species with such hugely expanded, colorful hind tibias -- leaf-feet. In the picture the bugs are mating and the one on the right has lost one of his leaf-feet, suggesting certain disadvantages to being a leaf-footed bug with super big hind tibias.

When volunteer identifier Bea in Ontario received the picture she used the Google Image Search feature searching on the keywords "leaf legged bug Mexico" and the first page of results came up with several pictures matching ours, labeled Affinis Leaf-footed Bug, ANISOSCELIS AFFINIS.

But, Bea is a fastidious person in these matters and when she checked around she realized that there are similar species and genera, and in the end could only be certain that we had a member of the Leaf-footed Bug Family, the Coreidae.

However, the bugs in our picture match other pictures of Anisoscelis affinis, plus the passionflower vine our bugs were sitting on is listed as the host plant for Anisoscelis affinis, and Anisoscelis affinis seems to be fairly common from southern Texas through Central America into South America, so I'm filing the picture under that name.

By the way, the word "bug" often is used for all insects, but technically it applies only to the "Order" of True Bugs, the Hemiptera. Our bugs belong to that order, so they're real bugs. Other true bugs include cicadas, leaf hoppers and aphids, all with mouthparts designed for sucking -- as opposed to chewing -- plus they undergo "simple metamorphosis," during which no larval or grub stage occurs. What emerges from the egg is a replica of the adult, except it's far smaller, and wingless. When a true bug feeds, its sucking, strawlike, "proboscis" is inserted like a hypodermic needle into its host plant's tissue. You can see our bug's sucking proboscis neatly stowed out of the way beneath its abdomen while not in use below:

Affinis Leaf-footed Bug, ANISOSCELIS AFFINIS, side view showing proboscis stowed below abdomen

On Wednesday I saw just our two Affinis Leaf-footed Bugs but already by Thursday the species was common along the white sand road, each and every individual near or on a passionflower vine.