The Milkweed Assassin Bug (Lepidoptera: Coccinellidae) is one of the most common insects found in North America. They are commonly known as milkweeds or poison ivy because they produce a toxic sap when threatened. These little critters are not dangerous to humans unless they get into our eyes or skin, but if ingested, it causes nausea and vomiting followed by diarrhea and sometimes even death due to dehydration.
They are small, wingless insects with long antennae and two pairs of legs. Their bodies are greenish yellow in color. They have three pairs of wings, which they use to fly at night while feeding on milkweed plants. The eggs are white, oval shaped and laid singly or in clusters on the undersides of leaves.
After hatching these tiny creatures crawl around searching for food until they die from starvation or predation.
Milkweed Assassin Bug Identification – How Long Does It Take For An Egg To Hatch?
It takes between 30 minutes and 2 hours for an egg to hatch. The eggs are usually found near the ground where they will dry out before hatching. If the eggs are left outside overnight, they may rot and become moldy. You can check your area for milkweed plants by looking under rocks or logs in grassy areas.
The milkweed plant has a milky sap, which oozes out when the stem is broken or torn from the plant. It looks like white liquid that drips down the sides of the stem. The insects feed on these plants and the greens are sweet and nutritious.
What Do Young Milkweed Assassin Bugs Look Like?
After hatching, the little creatures are called nymphs and they go through 5 growth stages before they reach adulthood. The younger the insect is, the more it looks like an alligator. They will molt or shed their skin as they grow larger and larger. It takes about 2 weeks to grow from an egg into an adult, but this can vary depending upon climate and other factors such as food quality.
What Do Fully Grown Milkweed Assassin Bugs Look Like?
There are three types of adult milkweed assassin bugs: small, medium and large sized. The males and females are the same size and weight. The adult insects are about 13 to 17 millimeters long. They are mostly green in color with a yellower head and brown around the head and eyes. The beaks of adult insects are also longer than those of the nymphs.
How Long Do They Live?
The average life span of milkweed assassin bugs is 6 months, although some may live for about a year. During the winter months, the insects will find cracks and crevices in rocks or logs to stay warm.
How Do You Tell The Difference Between Male And Female Assassin Bugs?
It is very difficult to tell the difference between male and female milkweed assassin bugs. They are the same size and weight. The adult insects do not have any sexual dimorphism, which means the males and female bugs do not have any obvious differences in their appearance. There are no physical markings or bright colors to help you tell them apart.
How Far Does The Milkweed Assassin Fly?
These creatures are not long distance flyers and will only fly around until they find a suitable place to feed and breed. They do not travel far unless the weather conditions are extremely dry and they need to migrate to another location.
What Type Of Antennae Do They Have?
The insects have long, thin antennae that are as long as their bodies. The tip ends in a small ball shape. These are sense organs that help the bug find food, water and other essentials it needs to survive.
Interesting Facts About The Milkweed Assassin Bug
The adult insects have special spine lobes that produce a poison. This is used as a defense mechanism to ward off predators. They can also release a foul-smelling odor from their bodies, which also acts as a natural repellent to would-be attackers.
The bugs prefer to feed on plant nectar, honeydew and aphids, but if these are not available, they will eat smaller insects. They also drink water from damp leaves or tree trunks.
Pet owners should be aware that these creatures can give a nasty bite and may try to feed on puppies, kittens and other furry pets.
These animals are native to the United States of America and Canada. They can be found in woodlands and other locations that have a large presence of milkweeds. The bugs are most commonly found in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana and New York. They have also been spotted in states such as Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington.
These insects often stay hidden amongst the foliage of plants and it is very rare to see one clumsily plodding around on the ground. They are most commonly spotted when the sun is setting or rising as this is when they come out to feed.
Milkweed assassin bugs are predatory creatures and will eat any other insect that they can capture and overpower. They are mostly active during the summer months, but they have been known to become slightly nocturnal in the extreme summer heat. The bugs prefer to stay close to their breeding grounds all year round and will hibernate in the soil during the colder winter months.
It is not known how the bug reproduces, as this is a time of mystery for scientists. It is believed that the mating ritual involves the male stabbing the female repeatedly in the neck with its genitalia, before releasing his seed. The insects lay their eggs in clusters on the undersides of leaves. These hatches after 7-8 weeks and the baby assassin bugs then feed on small insects and nectar.
The insects reach maturity after 5 months.
These creatures are not known to transmit any harmful diseases to humans, but their bite can be painful. The milkweed bugs inject a mild venom into their victim to stop it from struggling, this can cause a burning sensation.
Beware! The assassin bug is known to fly into short bursts when attacking prey and is also known to fly straight into the face of an enemy. If the insect does not kill its target with its spiked body or bite, it will release a smelly odor from its body to distract the predator and give it time to make its escape.
Sources & references used in this article:
The assassin bug, Platymerus rhadamanthus Gerst (Hemiptera: Reduviidae), a useful predator of the rhinoceros beetles Oryctes boas (F.) and Oryctes monoceros … by FL Vanderpalnk – Journal of the Entomological Society of Southern …, 1958 – journals.co.za
Filial cannibalism in an assassin bug by LK Thomas, A Manica – Animal behaviour, 2003 – Elsevier
Zelus renardii and Z. tetracanthus (Hemiptera: Reduviidae): biological attributes and the potential for dispersal in two assassin bug species by C Weirauch, C Alvarez, G Zhang – Florida Entomologist, 2012 – BioOne
Intrasexual competition and mate choice in assassin bugs with uniparental male and female care by LK Thomas, A Manica – Animal Behaviour, 2005 – Elsevier
The action and composition of the saliva of an assassin bug Platymeris rhadamanthus Gaerst.(Hemiptera, Reduviidae) by JS EDWARDS – Journal of Experimental Biology, 1961 – jeb.biologists.org
The architecture of the anterior appendage in the egg of the assassin bug, Zelus longipes (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) by KW Wolf, W Reid – Arthropod structure & development, 2000 – Elsevier
Revisiting Paternal Care in the Assassin Bug, Atopozelus pallens (Heteroptera: Reduviidae) by DW Tallamy, E Walsh, DC Peck – Journal of insect behavior, 2004 – Springer