The winner of today’s photography challenge is a orange-red/black bug that we see every so often moving through the backyard. I decided to look on google and see if I could figure out what it possibly could be—and I’m going to wager a guess that it is the large milkweed bug.

Large milkweed bug crawling along the edge of the patio table.

I find it a little funny that a milkweed bug is moving through our yard—we don’t have any milkweed planted. We’ve thought about planting some, we have the seeds sitting in the fridge—but we haven’t planted them. So, that is probably why they’re sporadic travelers in our yard—they’re trying to find some milkweed plants somewhere. Though they may also be feeding on the sunflower seeds that have been dropped from the bird feeders by various birds or squirrels.

They are found throughout North America and down into Central America and the Caribbean islands as well. In terms of their lifecycle—they have incomplete metamorphosis, where they grow in stages (coloration changes, and development of both wings and genitalia). The four instar stages usually occur over the span of a month (but this is dependent on temperature—if it’s warm they may move through the stages a little faster, if it’s cold they may stay longer in a particular instar stage until the temperature warms up).

While the mature milkweed bug can feed off of other plants, though the younger milkweed bugs need to feed off the seeds of the milkweed plant for development and growth. Once young milkweed bugs find a milkweed plant, there may be as many as twenty of them on it feeding at the same time.

One really cool thing about the milkweed bug—it is now being used in research labs for study of evolutionary biology and patterns. I think that I would probably have taken an entomology class as an undergrad, if the bug we had to keep alive was a milkweed bug and not a hissing cockroach.