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Bugs on milkweed

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

Home gardeners have been finding orange and black insects on their milkweed and related plants. Although some people think they are boxelder bugs, they are actually insects called large milkweed bugs, Oncopeltus fasciatus.
Large milkweed bugs are colorful and conspicuous and
fortunately harmless.  Photo: Jeff Hahn, U of M Extension

Adults grow as large as ¾ inch long. They are mostly orange and black including a black horizontal band across the center of the body and black on the end of the wings (the membranous section). A portion of the head is reddish orange. The immature nymphs are mostly orange with black wing pads and smaller than the adults.

Large milkweed bugs prefer to feed on common milkweed but will also feed on other related species. They often feed in large groups making them conspicuous on the plants. Despite their appearance, they do not harm milkweed nor any insects, like monarchs, they may also be on the plants. No action is necessary if large milkweed bugs are found in your garden.

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  1. how about the orange aphid-looking creatures that cover the stems? they do appear to damage the plant. Not worried about the common milkweed -- I've got way too much of that -- but they are also hitting the ornamental 'butterfly' milkweed.
    --Gavin HCMG

    1. These are oleander aphids. They are common feeders on milkweed especially swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). Remove them manually or - at this time of year - you could cut down the dying milkweed stems.


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