All About The Milkweed Assassin Bug

Owning a garden means making sure that you’re up-to-date with the types of insects that may choose to take up residence within the plants you’re trying to grow. While insects may be notoriously known for snacking on plant life, some are actually extremely helpful in maintaining a healthy garden.

Today, we’re talking all about the insect known as the Milkweed Assassin bug. We will discuss its role with your plants, as well as what makes up their lifecycle.

An overview of the milkweed assassin bug (zelus longipes)

To begin, let’s get an understanding of how they got their name, where these bugs can be found, and if keeping them around is a danger to you or your family. 

Where can milkweed assassin bugs be found?

Finding these insects is not a difficult task. Believe it or not, assassin bugs can live in a range of habitats ranging from your garden to a grassy meadow. Chances are, even while hiking through the forest, there’s a good chance you’ll find one of these brightly colored bugs searching for their next meal. These highly adaptive bugs and their relatives can be found throughout the United states, Central and South America, and even extending all the way out to the West Indies. 

What happens if a milkweed assassin bug bites you?

If milkweed assassin bugs are practically commonplace amongst areas we frequent, it’s probably safe to assume that you’d want to know if they bite and, if so, will that bite be dangerous? The short answer is: yes, they are capable of biting humans, but receiving a bite is unlikely. In the event that you are on the receiving end of an assassin bug bite, expect to feel a sharp pain that can result in a stinging sensation, swelling, and redness. The experience can usually be equated to the feeling of a bee sting. 

Why are they called “assassin bugs”?

Assassin bugs and their red and black color truly live up to their name. These skilled predators are adept in the art of hunting their prey. On a normal day the process involves laying a sticky trap and then hiding nearby for an unexpecting aphid or fall armyworm. Once their prey has been trapped, the assassin bug will emerge from its hiding spot and strike its prey, filling it with a toxin that results in a swift demise. 

The life cycle of milkweed assassin bugs

If you think you’ve located a milkweed assassin bug in your yard and want to know if they’re propagating in and around your home, keep an eye out for these life cycle stages to help you identify more information. 

Egg stage

Like most insects, life begins forming within an egg. These extremely tiny clusters of vial-shaped eggs are laid by an adult and left to hatch on their own. Eggs are generally present for only a few days following being laid before they yield the next set of stages: Nymphal Instar stages. 

Nymphal instar stages

Hatching eggs ushers in the nymphal instar stages. These stages summarize the process in which the insect is still adolescent, growing and molting repeatedly, but not quite considered an adult bug. There can be several molts that occur during this stage before the insect can be considered sexually mature. 

Adult bug

The last stage is the adult stage. An assassin bug is considered fully mature when it molts for the final time and develops a set of wings on their wing pads. 

Benefits of having milkweed assassin bugs in your garden

While some bugs may be detrimental to your garden, there is a benefit to keeping milkweed assassin bugs employed. So, before you go looking for the best ways to eradicate them from your property, consider this: 

They feed on common garden pests

In the event that aphids or other destructive insects have found their way onto your plants, enlisting the help of milkweed assassin bugs is sure to make a quick fix of your unwelcome guests. These assassin bugs will never be caught eating your vegetation and, instead, will help keep them safe from routine garden pests. 

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