Friday, September 18, 2015

The Milkweed Bug

I always let a few milkweed plants grow in our perennial garden.  Although considered a weed, I like them for many reasons.  They have a pink flower and a pod which bursts in the fall leaving fluffy silky fibers with a seed attached.

These are the milkweed pods that form after flowering.

In the fall the pod will burst open and the wind disperses the seeds.

I especially like milkweed plants because they attract monarch butterflies.  It is the main food source for the monarch butterfly larvae.  I have written about this butterfly before and even used similar photos but focused on the butterfly and not the flower or pod.

Milkweed Bugs clustered on a milkweed pod.

What I haven't mentioned before is the Milkweed Bug.  In the fall when the temperatures are cooler at night but approach eighty degrees during the day, the female Milkweed Bug lays eggs on the milkweed plant.  When the eggs hatch, the tiny little bugs called nymphs eat from the plant.  They start out very small and molt several times until they become their adult size.

You can see several sizes here.  See the tiny one on the leaf.

They continue feasting on the plant, actually destroying the seeds and sucking the sap.  Birds and other predators don't eat them because the milky sap is toxic.  If you want to destroy them you don't have to worry about their defenses.  These bugs don't bite or sting.   I just leave them because we have more than enough milkweed surviving and reemerging every year.

Here is an adult Milkweed Bug.  The adults can fly.

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