I noticed today that a large Jimson weed ( Datura or angel’s trumpet) plant in our field was infested with eastern leaf-footed bugs ( Leptoglossus phyllopus) – see photo attached.
Several things about this were interesting- Jimson weed is an exotic nightshade that is quite poisonous. Among other things it contains atropine and scopolamine and when used by some cultures as a hallucinogen can be lethal when taken to excess. It is not unusual for toxic plants to have specialized herbivores feeding on them, but this plant is believed to be non-native; thus it would be unusual for an insect to be able to tolerate it, unless it were adapted to feed on nightshades generally. I did not find any mention of this food preference on the web- indeed this bug is known to feed on a wide variety of plants.
The coloration of this bug also is interesting- with a bold white stripe across the middle of the wings. Could this be a type of warning against potential predators that this bug is toxic? Or is it actually a form of concealment from predators?
The strange enlargements of the hind legs apparently found only in males are said to be used for combat with other males.
So all in all a pretty interesting bug that we have all probably seen without thinking too much about it.
Bill Dunson, Englewood, FL & Galax, VA