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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.
milkweed missouri botanical

Milkweed beetles

Posted by Kelly Allsup - Bugs

Milkweed beetles (Oncopeltus fasciatus) may be feasting on the seed pods and plant tissue of your milkweed plants (Asclepias sp.). They have bright red-orange and black markings. These markings are a warning to predators advertising their bad taste. They are unpalatable to birds because of the milky latex sap contained in species of the milkweed family. These bugs are unsightly to gardeners because they aggregate on the plant.

Milkweed beetle undergo incomplete metamorphosis meaning the nymphal stage of the insect looks like miniature adults. Adults live for a month and females lay eggs in plant crevices after she has mated. In a short time, the nymphal stage appears and molts (do away with their hard outer covering called an exoskeleton) several times before it reaches adulthood. Un-mated adults will hibernate in leaf litter and plant debris.

The University of Illinois Extension recommends to not controlling this garden insect because it is present only a short time in the growing season and does not hurt the overall health of the plant. If the unsightliness of the infestation inspires control use a horticulture soap to spray on adults and nymphs. Please visit Flowers, Fruits and Frass Horticulture blog at for more garden insect information from the University of Illinois Extension office serving Livingston, McLean and Woodford Counties. Special thanks to the Missouri Botanical Garden for the image.

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