Large milkweed bug

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Large milkweed bug
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hemiptera
Family: Lygaeidae
Genus: Oncopeltus
Species: O. fasciatus
Binomial name
Oncopeltus fasciatus
(Dallas, 1852) [1]

The milkweed bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus, is a medium–sized hemipteran (true bug) of the family Lygaeidae. It feeds mainly on grains, particularly those of the milkweed. Like all hemiptera, it feeds through a long mouthpart known as a rostrum. O. fasciatus is commonly used in science due to ease of rearing and ease of dissection.

Life Cycle and biology[edit]

Adult emerging from a final nymphal stage

Adults that survived winter mate in May–June, when common milkweed plants have grown enough to provide shelter. During mating, female and male may become connected for up to 10 hours. Eggs are laid on cotton-like material found on Milkweed plants or under tree bark. Average female lays 30 pale orange/white eggs in a day, in several batches during summer. Eggs change color, becoming more intensely orange toward hatching. This insect undergoes incomplete metamorphosis. Nymphs hatch after about 1 week and molt 5 times before becoming adults.

Mating pair
Large milkweed bug feeding on a dead dragonfly

Adults and nymphs feed on milkweed plant juices, seeds and occasionally on other plant juices. When their native plant is scarce, they may become scavengers and predators. Both nymphs and adults use milkweed as their primary source of food.

After feeding on milkweed plant or seeds, the insects accumulate toxic glycosides in their bodies. This, combined with warning orange color, protects them against predators (aposematism). All milkweed bugs live up to 4 months.

Captive Breeding[edit]

Bugs can be bred with relative ease at home, serving as biology specimens. In captivity, they are kept in glass jars with cloth on top. If milkweed seeds are not available, they are fed shell-less sunflower seeds, juicy fruits (watermelon), or some nuts. Water (in form of soaked tissues or the watermelon) must be provided to keep the colony alive.