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Small Milkweed Bug (Lygaeus kalmii)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Small Milkweed Bug

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Image Credit: Barb L. from Aurora, CO
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Image Credit: DL in San Diego, CA
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Image Credit: Sarah L. from Roseland, VA
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The conspicuous coloring and occasional large group of Small Milkweed Bugs may cause alarm when sighted, but this ubiquitous insect is not a troublemaker.

Updated: 08/31/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Small Milkweed Bugs are a type of Seed Bug whose larvae eat the seeds of milkweed. Milkweed is a plant, loved by butterflies, that contains a chemical that gets stored inside the young insect eating it. This helps prevent the insect from being eaten by small animals because the chemical makes animals gag, sick, or possibly worse. Removing the possibility of predation is a boon to a species' survival. As adults, Small Milkweed Bugs travel away from the host plant and even the juvenile diet, expanding the food sources to a variety of things. They consume everything from flower nectar, dead insects, and bug eggs, to other plant species' seeds.

It is common to see these bugs in a variety of areas, from urban to rural. They are also found with many friends on the same plant or nearby. Their red and black colors and pattern resemble that of Boxelder Bugs and Milkweed Bugs (regular sized), but they also have two small white dots on the lower part of the body. In warm regions, Small Milkweed Bugs are active year round. In colder climates, they are active from spring to autumn.

General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Garden pest insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Pest insect icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hemiptera
        Family: Lygaeidae
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          Genus: Lygaeus
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            Species: kalmii
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Lygaeus kalmii
Category: True Bug
Size (Adult; Length): 11mm to 12mm (0.43" to 0.47")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, orange, white
Descriptors: spot, flying, heart, V, X, masses, group, cluster, garden pest

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 11mm (0.4in) and 12mm (0.5in)
Lo: 11mm
Md: 11.5mm
Hi: 12mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Small Milkweed Bug may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Small Milkweed Bug. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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