The Life Cycle of the Milkweed Bug

About Milkweed Bugs
People named milkweed bugs after the plants they eat. Milkweed
plants grow wild in fields and meadows. Milkweed bugs are found in
southern Canada, the United States, and central Mexico. More
milkweed bugs live in southern areas than in northern areas. Milkweed
bugs often cannot survive cold northern winters.
There are two kinds of milkweed bugs. Small milkweed bugs and large
milkweed bugs.
The Life Cycle of the Milkweed Bug
Milkweed bugs go through simple metamorphosis. This life
process has three stages: egg, nymph and adult. A milkweed
bug’s body changes form three times during simple
The Egg Stage
The milkweed bug’s life begins on a milkweed plant. An adult
female lays a brood of eggs. A brood may have up to 15 eggs.
The eggs are oval-shaped and bright orange/red. Each egg has
three curved points near the tip which help the eggs stay
attached to the milkweed plants.
Eggs hatch in 3-6 days. Milkweed bugs then begin their second
life stage.
The Nymph Stage
Milkweed bugs are in the nymph stage
after they hatch. Nymphs lack some of
the adult body parts. Nymphs grow large
and develop adult body parts during this
second stage. The nymphs feed on the
milkweed plants’ flowers, pods, and
seeds. The inside of the milkweed plant
is full of a milky white juice called latex.
The latex is gooey and hard to eat. The
milkweed bugs have special mouthparts
to help them suck up latex.
A nymph outgrows its exoskeleton as it eats. The nymph must
shed this outer covering to grow larger. This process is called
molting. The times between each molt is called an instar.
Nymphs grow a little bigger after each molt. The develop wings
and the coloring slowly changes until their bodies are mainly black.
Nymphs molt five times before they become adults. After about
40 days, nymphs complete the final molt.
Adult milkweed bugs live for about one month. They change color
as they grow older. Young adults have orange markings. The
orange marking turn red.
Adults eat milkweed plants during warm weather. During cold
weather, the bugs leave the plants. They live in warmer places
such as under leaves or logs. Some adult milkweed bugs fly south
during fall and winter. They live longer in warm southern areas.
How do you tell a boy from a girl?
Adult milkweed bugs mate to produce young. Adult males
attract females by making a sound. To make this sound, the
males rub their back wings over their abdomens.
Milkweed bugs mate in late spring or early summer. The
female then lays her eggs and starts the cycle all over again.
Seed Bugs
Milkweed bugs are part of the Lygacidae family. This type of
bug eats plant seeds. Some members of this family use plant
seeds to travel.
Milkweed plant seeds float through the air on thin strings of the
plant’s silk. Wind carries the floating seeds far away. Adult
milkweed bugs may hang onto the seeds. Both the seed and the
bug land in a new place. Not all milkweed bugs survive the trip
to a new location. But if the seed grows into a plant, the life
cycle of the bug continues in a new place.
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