As Anne and I enjoy watching butterflies sipping nectar from our milkweed flowers and monarch caterpillars devouring milkweed leaves, we see small orange and black colored insects on the plant’s seed pods.
These insects are large milkweed bugs that eat milkweed seeds. This bug has a long proboscis that pierces the seed pods and injects digestive enzymes that liquify the seeds. The insect sucks the life sustaining liquified nutrients through its straw-like proboscis to nourish this insect.
Toxic compounds, not harmful to the milkweed bug, is also absorbed making bug distasteful and poisonous to any bird that may try to eat it. The vivid patterns of orange and black, the same seen on monarch butterflies, warn potential predators not to eat it.
Like monarchs and dragonflies, the large milkweed bug also migrates south to avoid the bitter winter and returns each spring and can be found as far north as Canada.
Some people may think of these insects as infestations and damaging to plants, but it only lives on milkweed and we have never seen damage to our plants because of them.