Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Common Milkweed Activity

I’ve been admiring some of the Common Milkweed plants that have put on luxuriant growth despite the super dry conditions.  This one has topped out at about seven feet.

Most plants are carrying six or eight seed pods.  Tendrils on the surface of the Common Milkweed seed pod present an alien appearance.

It looks like it’ll be a bumper year for Milkweed seeds.  All of the pods are large and full.  It won’t be long before the seam separates to release the ripe seeds.

Monarch butterflies are around loading the plants down with eggs.  I watched this female lay 17 eggs on a clump of three milkweed plants.

It may be warm now, but this egg is in a race to produce a mature butterfly before cold weather arrives.  Monarchs will not survive an Ohio winter.  In order to survive, the mature butterfly will have to emerge and make its long migratory journey to the south.

The Monarch is not the only insect depositing its eggs on the Milkweed leaves.  These orange gems were left by a female Milkweed Bug.

Here’s the likely source of those eggs.  This is an adult Small Milkweed Bug, a species that specializes on eating milkweed seeds that are still held within the pod.

The nymphs form colonies on the milkweed plants.  They are most likely to be found congregating on the seed pods where they use long, tube-like mouthparts to probe deep into the pod to access the hidden seeds.

The nymphs will shed their skins several times before emerging as an adult.  To avoid being damaged during this vulnerable time of their lives, the little bugs will move away from the pack and pick a secluded spot in which to shed.  After a while, shed skins can be found just about anywhere on the plant.  The variety of interesting activities occurring on milkweeds makes the cultivation of this plant a rewarding endeavor.


  1. Interesting that the two species I most commonly assoicate with milkweed, the milkweek bugs and monarch butterflies, both have orange coloration, which appears to be the opposite of camoflauge. Advertising that they won't taste good to predators?

  2. Hi VB. Milkweeds contain toxins that accumulate in the bodies of insects that feed on the plants. This gives the insects a degree of toxicity that strongly discourages predators. It's thought that the bright coloration makes it easier for predators to identify these insects as being unpalatable.

  3. Fantastic monarch photos! I am thrilled to hear that there are plenty of monarchs around you laying eggs because I haven't seen very many of them this year.

  4. Your macro of the Monarch egg show it to be a beautiful work of nature's art.

  5. I just love these up close and personal nature photos!

    Stopping by to let you know that you've been nominated for the Sunshine Award! http://greenbeangal.blogspot.com/2012/08/sunshine-award.html

  6. Thanks Tiffany. The Monarchs have just recently arrived. I don't know if they are just now hatching from an earlier brood or if they are migrants cruising south.

    Hi Pat. The egg certainly shows a lot of fine detail for something so small and transient.

    Thanks Melissa.