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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

Milkweed Assassin Bug: 15 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Read on for some great milkweed assassin bug facts

Are you interested in learning about beautiful-looking bugs? If yes, then this is a good opportunity for you to know the orange and black bug known as the milkweed assassin bug. Its scientific name is Zelus longipes, and the bug is predominantly found in the southern part of North America, Central America, and South America. This orange and black bug lives in farmlands as well as in gardens, and it is regarded as a helpful insect as it preys on those insects that feed on plants. The elongated body and its color give it a similar look to that of the large milkweed bug, but these insects do not belong to the that group. This bug also has sticky legs that help in latching on to its prey while feeding. The milkweed assassin bug larvae have to go through five stages before becoming an adult. As the wing pads remain underdeveloped, you may not catch these bugs ever in flight.

Doesn't these orange and black insects sound absolutely interesting? Keep on reading to learn milkweed assassin bug facts. Also, read these articles on wheel bug facts and giant water bug facts to know more about the life of insects.

Milkweed Assassin Bug Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a milkweed assassin bug?

The milkweed assassin bug (Zelus longipes) is a species of insect.

What class of animal does a milkweed assassin bug belong to?

The milkweed assassin bug (Zelus longipes) belongs to the class Insecta and to the family Reduviidae.

How many milkweed assassin bugs are there in the world?

The milkweed assassin bug (Zelus longipes) is a widely found bug in its natural habitat. Hence it would be really hard to tracks down its exact population.

Where does a milkweed assassin bug live?

The milkweed assassin bug (Zelus longipes) is commonly found in the southern part of the United States, Central America as well as in South America. These bugs are also found in West Indes. In the United States, the milkweed assassin bug's territory ranges between the Gulf Coast, the South Atlantic states, southern California as well as in southwestern Arizona. Milkweed assassin bugs in Florida are also well known because of the insect's predominant presence in the state.

What is a milkweed assassin bug's habitat?

The milkweed assassin bug (Zelus longipes) is predominantly found in agricultural lands as well as in gardens. This insect species is well known for being present in fields where it preys on other soft-bodied insects.

Who do milkweed assassin bugs live with?

Milkweed assassin bugs are solitary in nature, so you wouldn't find it huddling in groups apart from when the nymphs first emerge from the eggs. However, you can find this bug living close to its prey  in crop fields for easy access.

How long does a milkweed assassin bug live?

Though the exact lifespan is yet to be known, it is said that the milkweed assassin bug can live for a really long time. The insects are also known for overwintering, which gives them a push when it comes to having a longer lifespan.

How do they reproduce?

Like most other insects, the milkweed assassin bug also lays eggs. A female milkweed assassin bug can lay up to 15 eggs in a single clutch. The eggs are usually brown in color and have an elongated shape. When you have a closer look at the egg, it is easy to notice that the egg is divided into two parts. The upper part is shaped like a cap, and it is known as the operculum. The rest of the egg is cylindrical in shape and is known as the chorion or the main eggshell. The eggs are cemented at their base, and the female insect covers them up with a viscous material. You may find the eggs attached to the underside of a leaf. It takes 3-6 days for the egg to hatch so that the nymphs can come out.

What is their conservation status?

There is no concern for their conservation status in current times.  

Milkweed Assassin Bug Fun Facts

What do milkweed assassin bugs look like?

One of the striking things about the milkweed assassin bug (Zelus longipes) is its acute similarity to the large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus). Both bugs share a similar orange and black look where the orange body is covered with black spots. Even though the two adult bugs may look similar, they do not share the same family or genus. Like other bugs in the assassin group, the milkweed assassin bug also has spindly legs that are sticky in nature. The antennas do stand out in the adult bugs as it helps the bug to hunt for prey as well as to judge the environment.

The orange and black shade of the bug is contrasted with full black legs. The orange and black color of this bug help it to blend with the color of soil and sand. Even though these are winged birds, the wings are underdeveloped and aren't classed as true wings. The underdeveloped wing also restricts the ability of flight in this species. When it comes to sexual dimorphism, the males are smaller than the male bugs. The torsos of males are also rounder compared to that of the females, which appear plate-like. Another important part of this bug has to be the long sucking mouthparts that allow the bug to deliver a toxin into its prey. It also helps the bug to suck on the prey while feeding.

Milkweed assassin bug facts are fascinating.

How cute are they?

We wouldn't call the milkweed assassin bug (Zelus longipes) cute as it literally behaves like an assassin for most insects that it preys on. However, the insect does look beautiful in its orange and black color. In most cases, people do find the bug to be quite frightening or intimidating.

How do they communicate?

The milkweed assassin bug (Zelus longipes) is not known to be a loud insect. It may make very faint noises that are inaudible to humans. As solitary bugs, it doesn't need to communicate a lot with its peers.

How big is a milkweed assassin bug?

The milkweed assassin bug (Zelus longipes) is considered bigger compared to other bugs, and it has a body length of 0.6-0.7 in (16.1-18.4 mm). Male bugs tend to be smaller than female bugs. The milkweed assassin bug is often larger than the long milkweed bug that has an average length of 0.1-0.6 in (3-15 mm).

How fast can a milkweed assassin bug move?

Milkweed assassin bugs are known for being slow-moving in nature. It doesn't even have the ability to fly because of its underdeveloped wing pads. Hence, it is safe to presume that these bugs aren't good at winning any race.

How much does a milkweed assassin bug weigh?

The exact weight of the milkweed assassin bug (Zelus longipes) isn't known, but we can vouch that it isn't too much because even though it is a big insect, the species is still relatively small.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no separate names for the male and female names for the milkweed assassin bug species.

What would you call a baby milkweed assassin bug?

The milkweed assassin bug baby is known as a nymph.

What do they eat?

Unlike other insect species, the milkweed assassin bugs have no interest in feeding on plant materials. These bugs are known for chomping down on other insects, and they can even feed on insects that are bigger than their size. This bug holds on to their prey with its long legs and feeds on the prey through its sucking mouthparts. The bug is known for feeding on aphids, armyworms, stink bugs, houseflies, and caterpillars. It is known for loving caterpillars of Spodoptera frugiperda.

The feeding strategy used by these bugs is known as the sticky trap. The sticky substance is present on the legs of these insects. The venom present in the saliva of this bug can help to dissolve the inside of the prey, which helps in sucking. As the milkweed assassin bug feeds on other insects, it is often known as a beneficial predator that live on farms. Farmers have been using it as biocontrol agents and as predators against other insects that may feed on their plants.

Are they poisonous?

Yes, the saliva of the milkweed assassin bug does contain a venom that helps to kill and liquefy the inside of its prey. However, the venom wouldn't really bother human beings.

Would they make a good pet?

Would you really want to keep a crop field bug as your pet? If yes, then you can go ahead and bring one home. However, it is really important to note that it might not be able to survive out of its natural habitat. Hence, we wouldn't say that the milkweed assassin is a good pet.

Did you know...

One of the most fascinating, unique, and interesting things about the milkweed assassin bugs is the five stages that the nymphs have to go through before turning into an adult bug. The first stage is the nymph stage, where the bug is predominantly orange without the black splotches, and the legs are brown. It is when the nymph has just come out of the egg. The nymph has a rounded shape, and it lacks any wing pads. In the second instar stage, the nymph's body elongates, where the head grows quite significantly. The legs also start to get black coloration, and the wing pads begin to appear.

In the third instar, the nymphs get pronounced scent glands along with a larger head, while the coloration of their body becomes more prominent. On the fourth instar stage, the bug looks more or less like an adult with a prominent head as well as banded coloration on the legs and antenna. More prominent dorsal sports begin to appear on the nymphs, and the abdomen portion elongates to become larger and rounded than the head. The fifth instar stage is when the bug grows up, and you can see its prominent black eyes. In this stage, nymphs also develop yellow stripes on the lateral side of their abdomen. Hence, milkweed assassin bug nymphs have to go through four molting stages.

How to get rid of milkweed assassin bugs?

Even though milkweed assassin bugs aren't harmful to plants and actually work as a predator to other animals, you may still want to get rid of the insects. An easy way to do it is to make a soapy solution in a spray bottle. Spraying the solution on your plants will prevent the bugs from attaching to the leaves and also deter the bug from infesting the plants. This method will work well for getting rid of the milkweed assassin bug nymph that might be present on the plants. You may also want to take a water hose and spray it on the plants to get rid of all the bugs. On a larger scale, like on farmlands, natural insecticides or bug repellents can be used to get rid of these bugs.

What happens if a milkweed assassin bug bites you?

Don't worry; nothing much will happen from a milkweed assassin bug bite on human beings. The bite is almost ineffective as it is mainly meant for its prey. The milkweed assassin bug prey on other animals, and the venom present in its saliva helps to liquefy their insides. When it comes to humans, the bite can only manage to produce a painful bump that itches for a few days. It wouldn't need any additional treatment apart from the usual ones that are used to soothe an insect bite. If the adult bug happens to bite you, make sure to apply aloe vera juice to get rid of the irritation.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these ambush bug facts and green stink bug facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Milkweed Assassin Bug coloring pages.

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