swamp milkweed leaf beetle

(Labidomera clivicollis)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

swamp milkweed leaf beetle


NNR - Unranked


not listed




Two generations: early June to mid-July and September


Marshy areas.


5 16 to 7 16

          Photo by DeWaine Tollefsrud


This is a relatively large, brightly colored leaf beetle. Adults are usually 5 16 to 7 16long but in favorable conditions may be up to ½ in length. The body is oval when viewed from above (dorsally); and strongly convex, dome-shaped, when viewed from the side (laterally).

The hardened plate on the upper side of the thorax (pronotum) is black, unmarked, and three times as wide as long, nearly as wide as the base of the hardened forewings (elytra).

The elytra are usually orange, sometimes yellowish-orange or orangish-yellow, and marked with black or bluish-black spots. The pattern of spots is highly variable. They are in four rows in a 6-4-4-2 pattern (counting both elytra). The upper (dorsal) spots in row 2 are large, and spread over the junction of the two elytra. They often join with the spots in row 1 forming an “X”. The remaining spots are sometimes joined with adjacent spots, sometimes faint and barely visible. The small triangular plate at the base of the elytra (scutellum) is black.

The head is black and is partially visible when viewed from above. The antennae are short, less than half as long as the body. They are weakly clubbed (clavate), gradually enlarged as they approach the tip. The eyes are not notched.

The legs are metallic bluish-black. The last part of each leg (tarsus), corresponding to the foot, has five segments. The fourth segment is very short and is concealed within the broadened tip of the third segment, making the tarsus appear to have only four segments.

The larva looks like a tiny, blackish alligator with numerous spines and six legs.



Larval Food

Larvae are found on the same species that adults feed on.

Adult Food

In Minnesota, adults feed exclusively on milkweeds, mostly swamp milkweed but also common milkweed and possibly others, and on the invasive vine black swallowwort. In southwestern United States they also feed on twinevine.

Life Cycle

Eggs are laid on the underside of host plant leaves. The larvae moult four times, drop to the ground, burrow into the soil, and pupate. The last generation of adults overwinter in leaf litter.


Adults are solitary. They are active during the day. They can fly but only for short distances. When feeding, they cut several veins on the leaf margin to “bleed out” the milky latex that would otherwise make feeding difficult.

After hatching, a larva may cannibalize nearby eggs and smaller larvae.

Like the monarch caterpillar, the beetle larva stores cardiac glycosides, present in all milkweeds, in its body. This makes the larva and the adult poisonous and unpalatable to potential predators.

Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 7, 24, 27, 29, 30.





Coleoptera (beetles)



Polyphaga (water, rove, scarab, longhorn, leaf and snout beetles)






Chrysomeloidea (long-horned and leaf beetles)



Chrysomelidae (leaf beetles)










milkweed leaf beetle

swamp milkweed leaf beetle










The hardened forewings on an insect used to protect the fragile hindwings, which are used for flying, in beetles and true bugs.



The saddle-shaped, exoskeletal plate on the upper side of the first segment of the thorax of an insect.



The exoskeletal plate covering the rearward (posterior) part of the middle segment of the thorax in some insects. In Coleoptera, Hemiptera, and Homoptera, the dorsal, often triangular plate behind the pronotum and between the bases of the front wings. In Diptera, the exoskeletal plate between the abdomen and the thorax.



The last two to five subdivisions of an insect’s leg, attached to the tibia; the foot. Plural: tarsi.







Visitor Photos

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Laura Baxley

Swamp milkweed beetle

  swamp milkweed leaf beetle    

DeWaine Tollefsrud

  swamp milkweed leaf beetle    


MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos






  Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Labidomera clivicollis)
Bill Keim
  Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Labidomera clivicollis
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle




Visitor Videos

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Other Videos

  Egg Cannibalism (Oophagy) in Hatchling Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetles, Labidomera clivicollis

Published on Sep 2, 2011

To the right of the sequence, a newly hatched swamp milkweed leaf beetle hammers on an egg.

  Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Chrysomelidae: Labidomera clivicollis) on Petiole
Carl Barrentine

Published on Jun 29, 2012

Photographed at Emerado, North Dakota (29 June 2012). Thank you to Blaine Mathison (@Bugguide.net) for confirming the identity of this specimen!

  Swamp milkweed leaf beetle larva feeding on the flower buds of a swamp milkweed

Published on Jul 11, 2011

I found this plump larva of a swamp milkweed leaf beetle (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Labidomera clivicollis) feeding on the flower buds of a swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, Asclepiadaceae). Filmed 07/10/2011 in a floodplain along the River Raisin near Blissfield Michigan.

  Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Chrysomelidae: Labidomera clivicollis) on Leaf
Carl Barrentine

Published on Aug 11, 2010

Photographed at the Rydell NWR, Minnesota (10 August 2010).

  Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Chrysomelidae: Labidomera clivicollis) Close-up
Carl Barrentine

Published on Aug 20, 2010

Photographed at the Rydell NWR, Minnesota (20 August 2010). Go here to see fabulous images as well aslearn more about the biology of this species: http://www.cirrusimage.com/beetles_leaf_Labidomera_clivicollis.htm





Visitor Sightings

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Laura Baxley

Location: Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

swamp milkweed leaf beetle

DeWaine Tollefsrud

Location: Shoreview

swamp milkweed leaf beetle


MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings





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