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Milkweed Bug

Alydidae,Milkweed bugs are colored orange (or orange-red) and black. Milkweed bugs long proboscis which they use to pierce the seed and inject salivary enzymes used to digest their food.

Milkweed bug

Milkweed bug

Adult milkweed bugs have full grown wings which cover the abdomen. On the underside of the abdomen, the female has one black strip and two black dots. The male has two thick black strips.

Milkweed plants sometimes fill entire fields in good years, but usually are found along roadways. The plant produces a milky white sap when a leaf is removed. These plants are 3-4 feet high with sprays of small white flowers in the summer. In the fall, seed pods develop which are 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. When the seeds ripen the seed pods open up releasing the seeds which float on fluffy white parasols. Milkweed bugs can be found on seed pods piercing the wall of the pod to feed on seeds.

Life Cycle :Milkweed bugs advance through five nymphal stages (instars) as they mature. Each molt produces a larger nymph that is more completely developed. As the bugs grow, the dark wings appear on the backs of the bugs as black spots. Other black markings start to appear and eventually develop into the characteristic patterns of black and orange by which the adults of the two sexes can be identified. The last molt reveals the adult. There is no pupal resting stage as in insects that undergo complete metamorphosis—the large nymph simply molts, and away walks the adult.

Milkweed bugs continue to feed as adults, inserting their long beaks into sunflower seeds to suck out oils and other nutrients. Mating is easily observed, as the two mating bugs remain attached end to end for an extended time. It is possible to distinguish female and male adults by body markings.

Milkweed bugs

Milkweed bugs

Several days to 2 weeks after mating, the female lays a cluster of 50 or more yellow eggs (which turn orange fairly quickly) in a wad of cotton. The eggs can be removed to a new culture container or left in the habitat to continue the life cycle.

Maintenance is minimal. Keep an eye on the water level, and when it gets low after 3–4 weeks, add water and perhaps replace the wick. A new bundle of 20 to 30 sunflower seeds each month should be adequate for a modest culture of 25 bugs. The culture may start to look a little messy after a month as little brown spots of waste appear on the walls of the bag and the molts start to accumulate. Transfer the branch, water fountain, and bugs to a new bag to renew the aesthetic appeal of the culture.

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