Sunday, July 31, 2016

milkweed suckers

Monarch butterflies are the beloved insects that rely on milkweed but another reddish-orange and black bug is equally dependent on the plant. 

The milkweed in front of the nature center has been active for weeks, mostly with milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus). Each bug has a long proboscis and is a piercing sucking insect that feeds on the seeds, leaves and stems of milkweed. Each plant can host a village of these bright medium-sized hemipterans (true bugs). They produce several generations during the season. The reddish young ones are called nymphs.

Their eggs are laid in milkweed seed pods or in crevices between pods. About 30 eggs are laid a day or about 2,000 over a female's lifespan of about a month during the summer. One to three generations per year depending on the climate.

I'm reminded yet again of what Thor Hanson writes in his book Feathers, "I'm never at a loss for things to study or topics to write about: everything in the natural world is fair game. If I'm not intrigued and excited every time I step outside, it just means I'm not paying attention."

Adult with two young nymphs

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