If you live in North America, you may have noticed in the warmer months these vibrantly colored insects flying the air. The Large Milkweed bug or Ocopeltus fasciatus is n member of the order Hemiptera (“true bugs”), the same order of shield bugs, aphids and stink bugs. Fortunately, you do not have to worry about unpleasant odors when dealing with these specimens.
The milkweed bug’s appearance consists of reddish-orange and black spots on their folded wings. As their name suggests, they feed on milkweed plant via their rostrum, a straw like apparatus that pierces the plant and digests its insides with specialized enzymes. . In doing so, the bugs accumulate the plant’s natural toxins which with their bright colors, deter predators.
The average female large milkweed bug can lay up to 30 eggs in one day and up to 2000 in their entire lifetime. Mating occurs between every 1-15 days and begins to peak around 20 days.
For a large milkweed bug to reach adulthood, it must first go through a transformation known as incomplete metamorphosis. Unlike complete metamorphosis, (in which an insect starts off as an egg, becomes a larva, changes into a pupa, and becomes an adult), incomplete metamorphism involves an egg turning into a nymph, an immature version of an adult. The difference between the nymphs and adults is nymphs have no wings and no sex organs. The nymph will grow via a series of molts known as instars. There are a total of 5 instars and each instar last at least six days. A milkweed bug can live to over 4 months and reach lengths of 14-18 mm.
These insects have short life spans and only require little area of space to thrive. They are highly resistance to diseases and parasites and are highly sanitary. Because they are related to numerous pest species, milkweed bugs are often the subject of comparative scientific studies. These reasons (as well as the fact that do not bite) are why the large milkweed bug is great for students and teachers to study and observe in the classroom.
If you are interested in attaining large milkweed bugs, I suggest you purchase them online at the Carolina Biological Supply Company website. These version have been bred ( in addition to milkweed plant) to eat sunflower seeds, watermelon seeds, and squash seeds and unlike their native counterparts. These won’t fly away.
Click here if you wish to purchase these wonderful, docile creatures.