The immatures (nymphs) resemble the adults, although the color pattern changes as they go through the five instars before molting to the adult stage. Figure 17. Wing pads are now present, and are dark brown to black in color and 0.35 mm long. Since the primary predators of the moths are bats, which hunt at night using sound rather than sight to locate prey, the moths don’t need warning coloration. Milkweed bugs have bright red or orange aposematic (warning) coloration. The abdomen is dark brown to orange in color, and appears round in form with a few setae on the last segments. By the third instar the caterpillars have thick tufts of black, white and orange (sometimes yellow) hairs covering the body. Eggs are laid in a cluster of 15 or more, cemented at the base and covered with viscous material (except for the anterior appendage as its function is to protect the aeropyles from clogging) (Wolf and Reid 2000). A new adult wasp then emerges from the “mummy” that remains stuck on the plant by the embedded mouthparts. There is a single generation each year in Wisconsin. 2005). It feeds on the seeds, leaves and stems of milkweed ( Asclepias ). They spread the resin around their limbs to create a sort of glue trap that can be used to catch and immobilize their prey. In early summer female beetles lay up to 300 elongate bright orange eggs in batches of 30-60 on the undersides of the leaves. As many insects are present on milkweed plants, you need to be sure you are dealing with the right one. 2000), the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri (Hall 2008), and the genista broom moth, Uresiphita reversalis Guenée (Carrel 2001). Mantids consumed from 80-100% of the bodies of the sunflower-fed bugs; in contrast, milkweed-fed bugs often survived the encounters and were released missing only small parts of their legs, wings or antennae. Both the brightly colored adults and larvae chew on the foliage of milkweeds, primarily swamp milkweed, although they have been recorded on common milkweed, butterflyweed (A. tuberosa), and a few other plants. Influence of prey size on predation success by, Melo MC, Coscaron MC, Filho BA. It's a devious way for the milkweed to force insects to help them reproduce--in … The forelegs of Zelus longipes are covered with a viscous material which acts as a glue, trapping the prey. Adult female milkweed assassin bug, Zelus longipes Linnaeus, paralyzing its prey, a cornsilk fly, Euxesta stigmatias Loew, by inserting stylets. The most commonly seen ones are: The parthenogenetic females (producing young without mating) give birth to live, wingless, young females to quickly build up populations. Milkweed Bugs of one kind or another are found on milkweeds across the U.S. and into southern Canada, and they’re most common in the Southeast. Figure 7. The sap drains from the leaf, and the beetle can feed on the drained area beyond the cuts. The wing pads are 3.54 mm in length, setaceous and black. Within a few hours the body turns dark orange, and the legs and antennae resume their usual black color. The red milkweed beetle, known scientifically as the Tetraopes tetrophthalmus, lives primarily in the eastern United States and Canada. Many natural enemies, including lady beetle larvae, commonly feed on aphids. Because large milkweed bugs only eat milkweed, they should not be a problem for monarchs. Adult milkweed assassin bug, Zelus longipes Linnaeus, lying in ambush (in the shadows upper left) with its forelegs raised just before attacking its prey, a cornsilk fly, Euxesta stigmatias Loew, (lower right). This species occurs from Central America to southern Canada, but does not survive the winter in cold locations like Wisconsin and has to re-invade from the south every year. Head is to the right and the stylet (pointing to the rear in the resting position) is visible under the head. The small milkweed bug, Lygaeus kalmii, only grows up to ½ inch long and are black with a large red X-shape on the back and white margins on the wings and sometimes small white spots in the middle of the wings. Only certain insects which have evolved to be able to deal with those chemicals without being poisoned can thrive on the plants, and have become specialists on milkweeds. Figure 1. It is also known as the 'longlegged assassin bug' and the 'Zelus assassin bug' (Bug Guide). The eggs change to a bright orange or red color before the nymphs hatch in a few days. The second segment of the antenna has five trichobothria (elongated, non-tapered setae) while the remaining three segments have abundant setae. This species occurs throughout North America, and is frequently seen on a variety of species of Ascelpias, including swamp milkweed (A. incarnata). Not many insects are able to feed on milkweeds. Pair of mating large milkweed bugs (R). 1977. These hairs are used as grips for a sticky resin that the bugs can produce from glands on their front legs. Although they will feed on young leaves, flowers, and developing pods, their preference is for the seeds, which provide the best growth and reproduction, and large congregations of all stages of the insects together can be seen on milkweed plants. Because of the length of their mouthparts they are only able to feed on the outside layers of seeds in each pod, leaving many interior seeds intact for plant reproduction. The mature larvae drop to the ground and produce a gray cocoon, incorporating hairs from the caterpillar, where they pupate to become adults or overwinter. Eggs of the milkweed assassin bug, Zelus longipes Linnaeus, showing the central pore (a) in the operculum of one egg, and the mucilaginous layer (b) surrounding the main eggshells but not the opercula. Milkweed tussock moth caterpillars feed together in large groups in the early instars. Adult Zelus longipes can be differentiated from other Zelus species based on the following morphological characteristics: In the pronotum, humeral angles are unarmed and rounded. This process of molting is carried out five times by the milkweed nymph until it becomes a fully mature adult. The sticky white sap that gives milkweed its common name and the leaves contain toxic chemicals (cardiac glycosides) to deter mammals and insects from feeding on the foliage. Photograph by Megha Kalsi, University of Florida. – Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison. The strategy Zelus longipes uses to catch its prey is known as the "sticky trap strategy." in the family Cerambycidae) each prefer a different species of milkweed. Of the 13 that occur in the US, only three species occur in the east, and the most common species in Wisconsin is the red milkweed beetle, T. tetraophthalmus. Like all true bugs, they have sucking mouthparts to inject digestive enzymes into the plant tissue and then suck the liquefied plant material through their straw-like beak. Aphids suck sap from the plant tissues, and if populations are high, can stress plants and kill small or newly planted plants. The wing pads are black, setose and 1.37 mm in length. The female lays masses of white eggs on the underside of leaves (R). Photograph by Megha Kalsi, University of Florida. The legs of the milkweed assassin bug are covered in short, pointed hairs like sundew plants. It is found in small groups on milkweed often on the stems, leaves and on the seed pods. The second and third antennal segments are setose. Poke milkweed showing the hoods and horns. And the abdomen is rounded and setose with faintly visible sweat glands. The dome-shaped adults are fairly conspicuous with a black head and pronotum, yellow to orange elytra with variable black to dark blue patterning, and metallic blue legs. The head is also more elongated, 1.08 mm long and 0.67 mm wide, compared to the previous instar. The abdomen is orange, setaceous and is 4.97 mm long and 1.77 mm wide. But if you’ve ever grown or just observed milkweeds, likely you’ve encountered some other insects on those plants. Northern populations migrate over longer distances than southern and tropical populations, and movements correlate with flowering of milkweeds. 2000. Adult milkweed assassin bugs, Zelus longipes Linnaeus, showing hiding or ambush behavior. The legs are dark brown in color, except for the coxa which is light brown. P. HAYES Department of Entomology, University of Illinois, Urbania In the last few years certain entomolo-gists have been rearing the milkweed bug in large numbers for testing the killing power of certain insecticides. 2005). The prominent reddish-brown eyes are 0.22 mm wide (ocelli are absent). It is also known as the longlegged assassin bug and the Zelus assassin bug (Bug Guide). 2005). Eggs: The eggs are cylindrical and elongate in shape, non-ornamented, brown in color, with a light brown, cap-like structure (called the operculum) which has a central pore with a funnel-shaped opening. The southern populations often consume Asclepias curassavica, a tropical milkweed. Nymphs are red with black antennae and legs, but lack functional wings. In the south there can be two generations per year. Another caterpillar that specializes on milkweeds is the milkweed tussock caterpillar or milkweed tiger moth, Euchaetes egle, in the family Erebidae, subfamily Arctiinae (formerly family Acrtiidae). This cosmopolitan pest is now found throughout much of North America, where they use milkweeds and some other ornamental plants in the families Apocynaceae and Asclepiadaceae as hosts. Adults and nymphs have a pear-shaped head, constricted neck and long hairy legs. Oleander aphids infest many milkweed species including common (L) and tropical (LC), forming large colonies (C) of bright yellow aphids with black cornicles and legs (RC) that attract many natural enemies (R). It has a long proboscis and is a piercing sucking insect. The large milkweed bug nymph is mostly orange with black legs, head and wing buds. Parameres (or lateral lobes of male genital organ) are cylindrical and long, surpassing 1/4 the length of median lobes. This stage lacks wing pads (Melo et al. It can also be found on swamp, whorled or green milkweed. Notice that the egg opercula are not covered. feeds on seeds and seedpods of milkweeds. We just located this Galveston County Master Gardeners “Beneficials in the Garden” web page devoted to the Milkweed Assassin Bug. The mature larvae drop to the ground and pupate in the soil. A few other milkweed specialists have developed ways to “eat around” the sap to avoid its toxic effects. 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