Colorful encounter

♥⊱ B. Randi Bailey

Largo, United States

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Colorful encounter with flowers and bugs, as well. The flowers are butterfly weed or scarlet milkweed, and the bugs, see below, are milkweed bugs. Captured at Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo, Florida, USA.

Butterfly Weed

Asclepias tuberosa (Asclepiadaceae)

An extremely hardy, long-lived perennial native to North America. The magnificent bright orange flowers are concentrated in compact clusters at the top of branching stems. The flowers produce a large quantity of nectar which attracts butterflies throughout the growing season. Requires a very well-drained sandy or gravelly soil in full sun. Butterfly Weed may take up to two years to become established from seed.

Average planting success with this species:


Height: 12-24 inches

Germination: 30-90 days

Optimum soil temperature for germination:


Sowing depth: 1/16"

Blooming period: June-September

Average seeds per pound: 87,000

Seeding rate: 10 lbs. per acre

Suggested use: Rock gardens, roadsides, mass plantings, borders.

Miscellaneous: Produces a very deep taproot making transplanting difficult. The stem, when broken, does not produce the milky white sap characteristic of this plant family. Once established is very dependable.

Note: Also called Indian nosy. Food: A member of the Milkweed family, so most parts of the plant contain toxins. A crude sugar is produced from the flowers.Medicine: Poultices for sores were made from the powdered root. A tea from the root encourages sweating. A tea was also made to induce vomiting during certain rituals.

From this site

The Orange Bug on Butterfly Weed
X Cathryn ChaneyCathryn Chaney has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2002. She writes for eHow and Answerbag, with emphasis on the topic areas of health, education and gardening. Chaney holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Arizona.
By Cathryn Chaney, eHow Contributor updated: July 13, 2010

.Butterfly weed, which has the scientific name Asclepias tuberosa, is a common and very visible plant in eastern North America. Vivid orange flowers appear in clusters during summer at the tips of stems, offering a banquet of abundant nectar to butterflies, hence the common name. In addition to attracting adult butterflies, the plant’s foliage also attracts a variety of bugs, including the larvae of monarch and queen butterflies. Another frequent insect visitor to butterfly weed is the milkweed bug.

The Orange Bug
There are two types of milkweed bug. The larger of the two is Oncopeltus fasciatus and the smaller is Lygaeus kalmii. Milkweed bugs belong to the order of true bugs—or Hemiptera. They undergo incomplete metamorphosis, which means that immature insects, known as nymphs, resemble miniature adults except for the absence of wings. The nymphs of both of these are bright orange and wingless.

As the nymphs grow they molt their hard exoskeletons and black wing pads begin to develop on the thorax. With the fifth and final molt, the fullly grown winged adults are produced.

Adults feed on nectar and the seeds of milkweed and other plants and are good fliers.
The large milkweed bug nymph is mostly orange with black legs, head and wing buds. The small milkweed bug nymph is more reddish-orange and has two black spots on the first segment of the thorax above the wing buds. Adult large milkweed bugs are orange except for black legs, a black triangle right behind the head, a broad black band across the middle of the bug, and black wing tips covering the rear of the abdomen. Adult small milkweed bugs are gray-black, with orange or red bands across the top of the thorax and bordering the inner wing edges to almost meet in the middle of the bug’s back, forming a loose X. In eastern varieties, the wing tips are deep black. In western varieties, there is a conspicuous white spot in the center of the black area.
Often the nymphs of milkweed bugs are highly congregated on the plants while they are feeding and are conspicuous to possible predators. However, an inexperienced bird, lizard or other predator soon learns to avoid them. The bugs concentrate toxic and unpleasant-tasting chemicals present in milkweed in their bodies. The bright coloration of the nymphs and the distinct patterning of the adults helps the predator remember what not to eat in the future. Such warning signals are known as aposematic coloration.
On butterfly weed, nymphs can be seen on stems, seed pods and the undersides of leaves. They congregate more at night. Once they start feeding, they are fixed in place by the sucking-piercing mouthparts embedded in the tissues of the plant. The flying adults can be found on all parts of milkweeds, and they also visit flowers and fruits of other plants.
The milkweed bug feeds on the sap of the butterfly weed plant using its piercing-sucking mouthparts. It also eats the seeds of the plant. Neither activity harms the butterfly weed plant. It is safe to allow the striking insects to remain on the plants.

Read more: The Orange Bug on Butterfly Weed |

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