Welcome back!

milkweed bug and nymphmilkweed bug in camoIf you feel like hiding so your teacher can’t see you (or your students can’t find you), follow the lead of the milkweed bug. Pictured here are a milkweed bug adult and nymph on one of our common milkweed plants. When the insects are on the plant’s flowers, they are almost impossible to see. These two specimens were just nice enough to pose on a leaf for me. At Belvedere, we have milkweed on the small raised bed by the trailers, in the outdoor classroom, and at the garden near the entrance.  You shouldn’t have to look too hard for them – they like to hang out in large groups.

I have much to tell you, but will keep this welcome back post short. In the meantime, be sure to check out the outdoor classroom (it looks like a jungle with pumpkins) and read on if you want to know a little bit about those milkweed bugs.

Impress your friends: You can tell male from female by checking out the underbelly. Females have one black strip and two black dots on the underside; males have two thick black strips.

A case of ex-digestion: Like many insects, milkweed bugs digest their food before they eat it. They use their long proboscides to inject salivary enzymes into milkweed seeds, then suck up the resulting fluid.

You think your lunch is bad: Milkweed bugs don’t have many predators because they accumulate the toxins found in milkweed plant sap. In nature, something that’s red usually is advertising that it isn’t going to taste good and may even make you sick. Young, inexperienced birds usually eat just one milkweed bug, then learn their lesson.

Not very many insects can tolerate milkweed toxins, so the milkweed bugs help  keep this plant from growing out of control. There are no known down-sides to having milkweed bugs in the ecosystem.

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