Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Milkweed Community

That wonderful intoxicating smell of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) blossoms lures all kinds of little critters to it. The majority of insects that feed on a milkweed are in some form of red/orange and black due to a chemical in the sap. Fascinating stuff! Here are some of the critters we found in our backyard milkweed community.


Yellow-Collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollis) on the left, skipper down below.


Ermine Moth (Atteva punctella)

Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetraophthalmus): I am so in love with this adorable insect. The milkweed beetle has 4 eyes instead of 2, the antennae are between the eyes. These little creatures will fall from the milkweed when threatened as a form of defense. They will play dead for a bit then scurry back up the milkweed when danger has passed. They didn't seem to be too frightened of the camera though, this little fellow came up to the tip of the leaf for a closer look.





Fuzzy spider stalking my little milkweed beetles. Shoo you!


The
Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) of course. Seeing the monarch butterfly on the milkweed causes Fauna to jump up and down yelling, "Do you see her abdomen touching the leaves??!!" She is determined to see a female laying eggs on the milkweed this year.


The monarch caterpillar resting after a morning of munching leaves. A full grown monarch caterpillar can eat an entire milkweed leaf in 4 minutes. Reminds me of some little growing girls I know!



Some fun milkweed facts from EEK!:

*Its Latin name, Asclepias syriaca, is named in honor of the Greek god of healing Aesculapius.

*Sap from milkweed was used by pioneers as a cure for warts.

*The airborne fluffy parachute of the seed was used by Native Americans to insulate moccasins.

*The dried empty seed pods were used as Christmas tree decorations by early pioneers.

*The boys and girls from Wisconsin schools collected 283,000 bags of milkweed fluff for use in military life jackets during World War II.

*It is used as an indicator of ground-level ozone air pollution.

22 comments:

Toni said...

so lovely, where did you get your seeds, I had a place but canot find it anymore.

Jane said...

I love your pictures it so funny that you posted this. I was just working on a post about Milkweeds also. I like yours better though : )

Stephanie said...

I took pictures of milkweed yesterday, too! (of course. :) )
Wow!! I had no idea that a caterpillar can eat an entire leaf in four minutes! The leaves are so huge! That's amazing.

There was an orange, yellow, and black bee on mine yesterday. :)

kyndale said...

wow, you're amazing. You know so much about bugs! I love the pictures!

Shady Lady said...

I never knew so much about milkweed. So cool! Keeping my fingers crossed for Fauna...

Lisa said...

Great post! Goose is an expert on Milkweed beetles. She loves them! Your photos are wonderful, Lisa! It looks like you guys are having a great summer!!!!

Lisa said...

Toni, the milkweed is growing wild in our field. Collect some seeds from the pods in the fall, keep them in a cool place for the winter and plant in the spring.

Kyndale, just learning my insects, I do a lot of research before posting. ;)

Lisa, Goose and I are the same about those little beetles. Seriously, the cutest insect I've ever seen!

Stephanie and Jane, can't wait to see those milkweed pictures!

Lisa :)

latisha said...

somehow your bug pictures make me sorta like the little critters.

Mom, M.Ed. (Jessica) said...

Oh! That little milkweed beetle is so expressive-he is just dear!

Aren't those fuzzy spiders goofy? We have those around our backyard gate-and at first I was startled by them, but now, when I look deep into their beady little eyes...I find them sort of cute. :)

Jane said...

Is it that red/orange and black insects are drawn to the milkweed because of a chemical in it or the chemical makes the insects this color??? Eiter way-very interesting.

Lisa said...

Jane, the chemical makes them that color.

Jessica, I have to agree that the spider is kind of cute, very cool set of eyes!

Toni said...

I am working with several elementary students for reading and writing during this summer. We are just finishing an article exploration on monarch butterflies, and my students were so excited to see your pictures. Thank you for a very timely post.

Tan Family said...

Wow! Neat beetle. You take the best pictures...I feel like I'm there with the plants and insects!

slim pickins said...

Yay, milkweed! My last two posts had pictures of some of the critters we've been finding in the milkweed (ever on the search for those monarchs) - i think some are those milkweed beetle babies, and another i think are yellow aphids? can't quite figure that one out. i'm loving the changes in the milkweed these days - from those gorgeous flowers to the pods...

Artistmama said...

Beautiful pics! Love that site EEK! We'll have to check it out more. Michael is into bugs right now.

Becca

jane said...

wow! who knew milkweed could be so interesting! besos!

Linda said...

Those beetles are the cutest insects EVER! I never thought I'd use those two words together.. insects and cute.. *lol*

Greetings from the netherlands ;)

nettlejuice said...

Lovely, lovely post, Lisa. Rainer and I will be on the lookout for some of these critters on the milkweed, especially that milkweed beetle (four eyes! so cool).

Ticia said...

I frequently find myself calling my kids over to come see your pictures, so they can see things we don't have here in Texas.

Magic and Mayhem said...

Our yard is full of milkweed plants from years ago when we gathered some pods and burst them at home to release the snowy fluff everywhere. :) We've had milkweeds (and monarchs) ever since and every year we raise butterflies in the house and release them when they emerge, pump their wings, dry and announce they're ready to take flight. They sit in my kids' hands before they go, completely unafraid. It's a magical part of our summer. I love, love, love milkweeds!

Oh, and ours are currently full of earwigs! We had to google them to find out what on earth they were doing in there. It turns out they look for any crevices to hide in and don't harm anything so we're mostly letting them be. Earwigs are not nearly as cute as monarch beetles!

Here's one of our butterflies being released in the back yard. http://magicandmayhem.homeschooljournal.net/2008/08/28/this-mornings-butterfly/

I forwarded this post to my daughters. Thanks for the tidbits and the smiles. :)
~Alicia

silverpebble said...

Wonderful! Thankyou so much for feeding an insect nerd's hunger for creepy crawly pictures and facts. I do love the Monarch - we don't get them over here but I learnt so much about them whilst at college.

Nikki said...

LOL, this post had me really confused and off on a research mission. In NZ we call milkweed Swan plants and I was thinking, huh, I thought monarch's only ate swan plants, and milkweed doesn't look like that! Anyway, our milkweed is still milky and still toxic.