Milkweed Bugs

The Milkweed bug, Oncepeltus fasciatus, is a conspicuous inhabitant of milkweed plants. The bright orange and black colors of the adults warn potential predators that the insect is toxic and distasteful. The milkweed bug larvae are bright red with black heads. Milkweed plants contain toxins, cardenolides, that deter many herbivores from feeding. The milkweed bug is resistant to the toxic effects of cardenolides and has a sophisticated system for sequestering the toxin and concentrating it.

The milkweed bug feeds on pods and seeds. Like all true bugs, the milkweed bug has sucking mouthparts. The adult milkweed bugs use mouthparts to probe into pods and seeds of the milkweed plant. The larvae feed on milkweed seeds. The bugs will probe into the seed and inject saliva. The saliva digests the plant tissue and liquifies the nutrients. The nutrients are then pumped into the insect.

Oncepeltus fasciatus, is relatively easy to culture. All they require is a source of water and milkweed seeds, along with the proper light and temperature.

Look for Milkweed bugs on the milkweed plants this Summer.

Left: Adult Milkweed Bugs
Right: Milkweed Bug Larvae

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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3 Responses to Milkweed Bugs

  1. Pingback: Swamp Milkweed Beetle | Living With Insects Blog

  2. how do I get rid of milkweed bugs without using pesticides?

  3. jjneal says:

    Why would you want to get rid of them?
    They don’t do much harm.

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