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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Milkweed bug sociology

The large milkweed bugs are in full flame in the garden, congregating mostly on the milkweed of course.  The top picture is a dense aggregation of nymphs on a dried milkweed seed pod.  You can see some shed exoskeletons there near them.  These bugs commonly clump together like this, often in mixed age groups but sometimes more like-aged as these are.  The eggs are laid on or in the green milkweed pods; since a female may lay 1000s of eggs it really is no surprise to find huge bunches of these bugs during their seasons.

Here you can see the milkweed seeds among the bugs.

Sometimes the milkweed bugs spread out and explore other plants.  The nymphs supposedly feed only on milkweed seeds; their motivation to wander is therefore unexplained to me so far.  Adults may feed on nectar or plant juices and of course wandering might be related to mating activity.  Here is a nicely posed small group with an adult,  a freshly molted adult and a couple of sub-adults along with a shed exoskeleton.

And sometimes a milkweed bug just wanders off by itself.  This one was found on the buckwheat (eriogonum giganteum).

As for the species name Oncopeltus fasciatus, the Latin translates to something like "banded little shield" and should by no means be confused with neither necrotising fasciitis nor Mr. Cardui's current affliction Plantar fasciitis.  While the PF has adversely affected the Mister's sociology including his ability to wander or even hobble sometimes, he still gamely sallies forth into the weekend yard sale scene with me.  We're just a pair of large rummage bugs, perhaps.


Kate G. said...

I am very interested to know that large milkweed bugs are found in southern California. I raise them in my elementary science classroom here in Oakland (they are part of our district's science program), but they are not native to this area so I can't release them here. I've searched for information about their habitat online, and every site I've found says that they live east of the Rocky Mountains and in the southeastern states. I wonder how far north their range extends in California.

I discovered your blog today, and I appreciate your bug enthusiasm. I'll keep checking in.

Anonymous said...

HA! I'm a Rummage Bug too- Northern species. Hope the Mr's foot is better by now.