Milking it

Today’s hike took me through a meadow that I haven’t been to in years. The community has reseeded it so that it’s now all native plants, specially picked to attract birds and butterflies.

Milkweed is a favorite of monarch butterflies, and there are now several huge patches of it in the meadows.

Milkweed is a lovely flower – here’s a whorled milkweed –


The milkweed in this field was very tall, though, more like the ones I remember seeing as a kid in Ohio.

I got up close to photograph the progression they make from those tiny flowers to the big puffy seed sacks.

It’s remarkably like pregnancy:


As I was up close, I noticed a pair of bugs mating. Of course, I took their photo – who can resist a little bug porn?


Then I noticed that the next plant also had a mating pair of these bugs.

And so did the next one.

And the next. It was a milkweed orgy!


When I got home, I posted these photos to the Spider and Insect Enthusiast Group that I belong to and asked for help with identifying these couples.

A fellow group member immediately piped up, “Milkweed bugs!”

I laughed and said, “HAPPY milkweed bugs.”

Well, yes, but it turns out that Large Milkweed Bug is their actual name. Oncopeltus fasciatus

I’d thought she was kidding.

I learned that the Large Milkweed Bug lays eggs in the milkweed pods, about 30 eggs a day. A female can lay 2,000 eggs in her one-month lifetime.

I had another one to ask about – a lovely fuzzy caterpillar, tufted with a texture like yarn. This was also on a milkweed.


But before I asked for an ID, I googled “milkweed caterpillar” just for fun.

And there it was: Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar.

So next time you’re stuck for the name of a bug, just call it a “[Name of Plant It’s On] Bug.”

Here’s another bug from today, the Shiny Passionflower Bug:


You know I’m kidding, right? That’s the infamous Japanese beetle – they are terribly destructive. (That’s also what the bug in the featured image is – except that’s a Gnawing Elderberry Bug.)

So how about this one – the Skinny Purple Cone Flower Bug.IMG_6527

This flower’s also known as echinacea. Maybe he has a cold and wants to fortify his immune system?

I’ll get back to you with an ID on that.

Today’s penny is a 2012, the year that I saw milkweed in Ohio for the first time in decades. More about that another time.