Subject: large milkweed bugs
Geographic location of the bug: San Diego co
Time: 06:06 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi,
I need help. I have a plant that I did not know what it was. Have decided to cut it down but when I was, I found this red and black bug on it. I looked it up. It is a large milkweed bug. I figured this must be a milkweed plant. The bees love the flowers and it has large smooth skinned pods. The bugs love it. I found them very interesting and have been watching them for about a month. I may have made a mistake. They seem to bread excessively. It was fun to watch 30 or 50 little tiny things grow bigger but now I think there are many more than that. They seem to still want to bread and the little things are all over the plant. Am I in trouble? What should I do? Thanks for your advise.
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We are pretty certain the plant in question is a Bladder Flower, Araujia sericifera, which is native to South America and is featured on the Weeds of Australia website. We faced a similar quandary with this plant several years ago when it sprouted on the fence at the What’s That Bug? offices. We removed it after it bloomed and produced large pods. The plant has a milky sap, which is the reason it has attracted the Large Milkweed Bugs. Large Milkweed Bugs are native and they will not harm other plants in your yard. They do not damage milkweed, but since they feed on seeds, they will reduce the number of viable seeds produced by a plant. We do not provide extermination advice. If you remove the bladder flower, an invasive species, you will also remove the food source for the Large Milkweed Bugs, though if there is oleander nearby, they will also feed on oleander.
Thanks, I did not know how dangerous it would be to have the insects in the yard in those quantities. I am going to take the plant down after they all break open so the guys can eat the seeds. Then limit its size and location. It takes over unless you watch it, which I did not. No one is going to believe you answered me and actually knew what it was. We have been having a hard time trying to find out what it was. I have been told you could eat the pods and you could not. I am not! Thanks for all your advise! Really helpful.
I have been very very interested in the large milkweed bugs. This is so weird for me because I have always been afraid of bugs. I am sending this picture because I think it so strange. I have been watching them in the evening getting on top of each other. They pull the younger ones underneath. In the morning when the sun hits them the ones on top start to wake up and then they start waking each of the ones underneath. Like they are checking them. Do you know if what I am saying is true? Thanks Susan
Hi again Susan,
Thanks for the update on your Large Milkweed Bugs. There are some Heteropterans, the order to which the Large Milkweed Bug belongs, that practice parental care, including some Stink Bugs like the one pictured on Alamy and some Treehoppers like those pictured in the Bug of the Week posting of the University of Maryland. We have not heard of this behavior in Large Milkweed Bugs, and the newest images you provided only depict immature individuals. This is more likely a situation where forming aggregations of individuals is mutually beneficial and it is not an example of caring for younger individuals.
Update: March 1, 2018
Hope you are not angry that I am contacting you again. Why are some of the larger bugs turning white. See the picture. I don’t know if it is a young bug getting mature or a mature bug getting older.
No Problem Susan. The light individual is newly metamorphosed, and once the exoskeleton fully hardens, the color will darken.