Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Backyard Nature Wednesday: Milkweed bugs

We know about the relationship between some butterflies and milkweed.

Monarchs are the most famous example.

But Queens also depend on milkweed.

That dependence is related to the production of the next generations. Their caterpillars have to have milkweed to develop. Here is a Monarch cat.

And here's the Queen caterpillar.

But there are other insects that also love milkweed. For example, milkweed is like an aphid magnet, and where there are aphids, you are also sure to find the ladybugs that love to munch on them.

There is another insect, though, that is so tied to milkweed that it even has the plant in its name. It is the milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus).


The milkweed bug feeds on the leaves, stems, and seeds of milkweed and it bears the same orange and black colors as the butterflies that depend on milkweed. Those colors warn would-be predators that the insects contain toxins from the plants on which they feed. 

Several of my milkweed plants currently have whole colonies of milkweed bugs living on them and, as you can see, some of them are busily working to create even more of the sucking insects. In spite of the fact that they feed on the plants, they don't seem to do any real damage. The plants are thriving and so are the bugs.

8 comments:

  1. I always wondered if those were good bugs or bad bugs. I have thriving colonies too - I'll just let them be :-)

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    1. I let mine be, too. As far as I can tell, they do no significant harm - unlike the aphids.

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  2. Thank you for this beautiful post

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  3. Love the pics! Informative post as well.

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  4. I have seen those bugs in my yard before, mostly at my last house. Good to know they are harmless!

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    1. I think they are pretty much ubiquitous wherever there is milkweed and the plant seems to be able to tolerate them very well.

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