The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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Buggy for Milkweed

DSCN1964 (1024x768)As August wends its way toward September, the late summer garden is in tempo: seed pods adorn plants, annuals spit forth bright summer bloom, leaves begin to turn, a bit, and the garden seems drier, even though we’ve had rain. Even our temperatures have slackened.

It’s milkweed pod season. I’d noticed a couple of pods on the plant in the large pot on the patio and had examined it looking for catepillars. I’m seeing more butterflies, so I was surprised and a bit startled when I saw one of the pods encircled with an army of brilliant orange-red insects.

What are these tiny bugs?DSCN5058Here’s a closer look.DSCN5062Clearly,they are feeding on the pod. Here’s an even closer look.DSCN5061This evening, I checked in on them. They have a friend! Is this guy eating the insects or enjoying the pod? Is the plant in danger? My research leads me to believe that all of the insects are feeding on the pod, and the large insect is an adult version of the very small insects, which are nymphs, and they are all called very simply milkweed bugs, or oncopeltus fasciatus for those who prefer technical terms.

DSCN5145They dine on the sap of the pod as well as the seeds. Some sites suggest removing them with a paper towel so as ensure seeds for scattering. I don’t think I will follow this advice. Milkweed isn’t just for monarchs, and I’m enjoying watching the milkweed bugs.

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