Friday, July 1, 2011

Common Milkweed Creatures

I began the week with a look at various animals on one type of milkweed, so I thought it appropriate to finish the week with a look at creatures inhabiting another type of milkweed. Common Milkweed is widespread, but it seems to prefer soils towards the moderate to wet end of the moisture scale. The flowers usually don’t form the dense cluster typical of other milkweed species and their tendency to droop detracts from the visual effect. It’s still a powerful attractor of insects and other small creatures.

Continuing with the black and orange theme of milkweed dependent insects is a pair of Milkweed Beetles.

It seemed to be a time of interaction for the creatures of the milkweed plant. These Milkweed Beetles are doing their best to ensure a future supply of beetles. In fact, I didn’t find any single beetles on any of the plants I visited.

Ambush Bugs were also busy starting a new generation. Mating insects are a little slower to move to cover when disturbed, so make good photographic subjects.

The flower clusters were full of small beetles and showed many signs of feeding damage.

Where ever insects congregate, you’ll find predators. That’s certainly an impressive set of spiny legs. I wonder if the spines serve as some sort of sensory device.

There was also a lot of interaction between different species. The beetle fled a flower cluster as I was pushing the plant around to get a good picture. The spider was quick to take advantage of the opportunity.

I’ve pretty much learned what to expect when I see a butterfly acting strangely on a flower. Edwards’ Hairstreaks move about almost constantly when nectaring. If you see one holding still, you know there’s something wrong.

Just as I suspected, a crab spider. This sort of activity goes on all the time, but I hate to see the rare things being killed. I hope it took care of mating and egg laying before it came over and got itself eaten.


  1. Milkweed insects are always so interesting. I have fond memories of the milkweed beetles squeaking when we picked them up as children.

  2. Hi, Roberta. I don't remember the squeaks as much as I do the squeals made by the girls when I threw the bugs towards them.

  3. You should make a trip outside at night when the milkweed is in bloom, and you can witness an ethereal world of moths. There is a huge patch of it growing in a pasture near my home, and it is surrounded by 10x more activity at night.

    I really enjoy this site, and reading about all of your observations as you restore your patch of refuge is great. I help maintain 55 acres of tallgrass prairie in Miami County, Kansas, and love every minute of it.

  4. That's a great suggestion Brett. I've done that a couple of times and got to see an abundance of moths and beetles visiting the flowers.