Think of a milkweed.
Good. Now think of an insect that relies on milkweed.
What did you think of?
That’s what I thought. Don’t be ashamed, I think of monarchs and milkweeds, too. The thing is, though, many other insects also have close relationship with members of the asclepias family. Let’s take a look at some of them.
We’ll start with milkweed bugs. Milkweed bugs come in two flavors: large and small.
The small milkweed bug (Lygaeus sp) is (you guessed it!) slightly smaller than the large one. It also displays a red X on its back as well as two small white dots.
From what I can tell, the large milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus sp) tend to be a littler more orange. Their markings also look like three large black horizontal bands rather than an X.
Both large and small milkweed bug larva eat milkweed seeds.
Milkweed bugs are in the order Hemiptera, meaning they are “true bugs”. I spotted another hemiptera chilling on a nearby milkweed, but that’s as far as I got in that identification game. Any ideas?
There were also a ton of tarantula hawk wasps (Pepsis or Hemipepsis sp) buzzing around.
Tarantula hawk wasps are so named because when it is time to reproduce, the female will sting a tarantula (permanently paralyzing it) and drag in into a pre-made brooding nest. The female wasp will then lay it’s egg(s) on the tarantula, I won’t go into the gory details here. Only the females hunt tarantulas, though, and only for reproduction. The adults feed off the nectar and flowers of milkweeds.
I photographed another insect which I believe is a wasp, but I’m not 100% sure. Any thoughts?
Yet another insect I couldn’t identify could be a bee (Order Hymenoptera) or a syrphid fly (Order Diptera). I don’t feel so bad about this one, though, because syrphid flies utilize Batesian mimicry (aka they exhibit the same coloring patterns as bees and wasps as a form of protection against predators).
So, moral of the blog post: milkweeds are important to lots of insects. Let it be known.
Needles Field Office
Bureau of Land Management