Labidomera clivicollis

Geographic Range

Labidomera clivicollis is found in the eastern half of the Nearctic region. It is present over most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains, and as far south as northern Mexico. (Blatchely, 1926; Daccordi and LeSage, 1999; Quinn, 2008)


Labidomera clivicollis lives on many species of milkweed, particularly the swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata. It can be found wherever milkweed grows, particularly in meadows, grasslands, along roadsides, and in wetlands. (Dickinson, 1996; Eickwort, 1971; Palmer, 1981)

Physical Description

As an adult, Labidomera clivicollis is 12 to 13 mm in length. It has a black head and a black pronotum. The elytra either have orange or yellow coloration, with dark blue to black splotches, with each side of the elytra exhibiting almost perfect symmetry. This species is oval and robust. The thorax is three times as wide as long and the elytral punctures are fine and arranged in irregular rows. Legs are a metallic blue color, and exhibit 4-4-4 tarsi, a typical chrysomelid characteristic. The last tarsi have a tan colored plate resembling a broad heart shape.

Larvae have black abdominal segments. Pigmented spots occur along the annular spiracles. The pronotum has a black/brown covering around the edges. A few short setae occur on all segments of the body, but the most abundant are on the ventral aspect, head, legs and pronotum. The ventral ampullae are consistent and found on all ten segments of the swamp milkweed leaf beetle abdomen. Only those associated with segments 8 to 10 are used in anchoring to the host plant during movement. The larvae of L. civicollis are very similar to those of Leptinotarsa decemlineata in size but can be distinguished by a clear translucent covering. (Blatchely, 1926; Daccordi and LeSage, 1999; Eickwort and Eickwort, 1986; Gustafson and Chaboo, 2009; Peterson, 1951; Quinn, 2008)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    12 to 13 mm
    0.47 to 0.51 in


There is little information on the development of Labidomera clivicollis, but it is known that it has a typical beetle life cycle of egg, larva, pupa and adult. This species has 4 larval instars, and the last instar burrows in the ground to pupate. The last generation of the year overwinters as adults, and thus has a longer adult lifespan. The last generation is mostly inactive during diapause. The species has one generation in the north and at least two in the south.

If starved, last instar larvae will pupate at a smaller size, but this results in much smaller adults, and smaller females reproduce later, make smaller eggs, and these eggs are less successful. In Texas, a lack of food at the end of the growing season in the fall results in smaller adults. It is thought that this occurs because only adults can overwinter, and early metamorphosis is better than none at all. (Dickinson, 1992a; Gustafson and Chaboo, 2009; Palmer, 1981; Palmer, 1982; Palmer, 1983; Palmer, 1984; Palmer, 1985)


Males and females of Labidomera clivicollis are very promiscuous, and spend a long time copulating. Mating may last for up to 2.5 days, with an average of 3/4 of a day. The success of each male is dependent upon many factors that include mating order, mating duration, and the recency of the female's prior mating. In addition to sperm count, mating duration and paternity is directly correlated through the dilution and flushing away of a previous male's sperm. Males often guard their mates until oviposition, and often face attacks during copulation by solitary males. Males will even refrain from feeding to guard their mate, indicating a tradeoff between reproduction and survival for the males of L. clivicollis, where males either forage for longer periods of time or mate for longer periods of time. Males also do a courtship display while mounted on the female, but often just ride passively on the back of a female. Sperm transfer is more successful the longer that males remain with a female. Males that emerged from diapause at an earlier date were more successful than other males. Photoperiod also affects mating by either inducing diapause with decreased photoperiods or increasing mating potential under longer photoperiods. (Abbot and Dill, 2001; Dickinson, 1986; Dickinson, 1987; Dickinson, 1988; Dickinson, 1992a; Dickinson, 1997; Palmer, 1983)

Females of Labidomera clivicollis lay clusters of up to 60 eggs at one time. Because females can mate more than once (up to 10 times each in one New York study), the individuals in one clutch or cluster may be full siblings or half siblings. The species has one generation in the north and at least two in the south. (Dickinson, 1986; Dickinson, 1992b; Dickinson, 1992a; Gustafson and Chaboo, 2009; Palmer, 1983)

  • Breeding interval
    This species has one generation in the north and two in the south.
  • Breeding season
    Mating takes place in the summer in the north, and in the spring and late summer in the south.
  • Range eggs per season
    60 to 300
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    10 days

In the related Labidomera suturella, females provide limited parental care for larvae, but this behavior has not been noted in L. clivicollis. L. clivicollis likely does not provide parental care beyond provisioning of nutrients in its eggs. (Choe, 1989)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female


Little information is available on the length of adult life in Labidomera clivicollis. The last generation of the year overwinters as adults, and thus has a longer adult lifespan, although they are mostly inactive while going through diapause. (Palmer, 1983)


Labidomera clivicollis is mainly active during the day. It can fly, but likely does not fly far as it stays mainly near areas with its host plant, milkweed. L. clivicollis is mainly solitary. Males have been known to fight each other, even in the absence of a female, indicating that the males are trying to remove the other from their host plant and food source. (Abbot and Dill, 2001; Quinn, 2008)

Home Range

Adults generally stay near habitats with host plants, typically swamp milkweed. (Quinn, 2008)

Communication and Perception

Little information is available on communication and perception in Labidomera clivicollis, but it is likely that it uses primarily visual and chemical communication between individuals. Tactile communication is also important, as it occurs during mating and courtship, as the males ride around on the back of females. Males also physically attack one another both when fighting over mates, as well as when fighting over host plants. L. clivicollis likely perceives the environment through visual and chemical cues as well. (Abbot and Dill, 2001)

Food Habits

The primary host plant of Labidomera clivicollis is swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata. Cynanchum unifarium is the host for some Texas populations, and Enslenia albida has been documented as a host in Illinois. L. clivicollis also occasionally uses other Asclepias species. L. clivicollis and other species that feed on milkweeds have adapted to the toxic cardenolide steroids in these plants, some using variations the structure of the sodium pump in their cells, thus lowering their sensitivity to cardenolides. These compounds are then used as protection from predators. Larvae have also been known to cannibalize eggs and smaller larvae. (Dickinson, 1992a; Dobler, et al., 2012; Eickwort and Eickwort, 1986; Palmer, 1984; Quinn, 2008)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves


A damsel bug, Nabis subcoleoptratus, is a known predator of the larvae and eggs of Labidomera clivicollis. The larvae of Melanostoma mellinum, a fly of the family Syrphidae, preys on all larval instars. The stink bugs Podisus maculiventris and Podisus placidus, and many kinds of spiders are also predators of Labidomera clivicollis. Birds and rodents of many different species are also likely predators. Intraspecies predation is also common, as cannibalism occurs in this species, consisting of the eating of unhatched eggs by the recently hatched larvae. On average, approximately 17% of the eggs were observed to be cannibalized under optimum conditions. In addition, 3% to 5% of the first instar larvae are eaten by other larvae in the same cluster. For defense from other predators, Labidomera clivicollis uses cardenolides from its host plant as protection, and has aposematic coloration. (Dobler, et al., 2012; Eickwort, 1977; Quinn, 2008)

Ecosystem Roles

Labidomera clivicollis is a significant herbivore on milkweed. Since it feeds exclusively on milkweed, it has the potential to seriously defoliate patches of these plants. The primary host plant is swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata. Other species of Asclepias are also occasionally eaten, as well as Cynanchum unifarium in Texas, and Enslenia albida in Illinois. Labidomera clivicollis serves as a host for a parasitic mite, Chrysomelobia labidomerae, which feeds on the hemolymph of adults and is transmitted from one individual to another during mating. The parasitoid tachinid fly Adoryphorophaga aberrans has been observed using L. clivicollis as a host, though it is likely not common. (Abbot and Dill, 2001; Eickwort, 1977; Gustafson and Chaboo, 2009; Quinn, 2008)

Species Used as Host
  • Asclepias incarnata
  • Cynanchum unifarium
  • Enslenia albida
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Chrysomelobia labidomerae
  • Adoryphorophaga aberrans

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no known positive effects of Labidomera clivicollis on humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of Labidomera clivicollis on humans.

Conservation Status

Labidomera clivicollis is not listed as an endangered or threatened species on any international, national, or state lists.


Brandon Bodnariuk (author), University of Michigan Biological Station, Brian Scholtens (author, editor), University of Michigan Biological Station, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


having coloration that serves a protective function for the animal, usually used to refer to animals with colors that warn predators of their toxicity. For example: animals with bright red or yellow coloration are often toxic or distasteful.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


a period of time when growth or development is suspended in insects and other invertebrates, it can usually only be ended the appropriate environmental stimulus.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an animal which has a substance capable of killing, injuring, or impairing other animals through its chemical action (for example, the skin of poison dart frogs).


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


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