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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Brightly colored bugs

 Oncopeltus fasciatus finally posed so that I could take her picture (these bugs are otherwise known as the Milkweed Bug.)  If you can pronounce it, I think they like it better if you use the Latin name as the common name sounds fairly disparaging--milkWEED and BUG or weed bug.  Who really wants to be known as the "weed bug".  

However terrible the common name may be, these bugs are actually fun to see in the summer time.  They are brightly colored with black and orange stripes (which to a bird means don't eat me--YUCK), and they eat the sap of Asclepias plants.  As much as we love all Asclepias, these plants certainly need predators to keep in check.  The insects like to hang out in groups on the plants which may add to the bright coloration and keep away predators. Apparently they also learn the adage "safety in numbers" from an early age!

They taste terribly because their favorite food is the milky rich sap of the Asclepias plant which do not taste very good.  I would encourage you not to test taste this at home, but I can tell you from the experience of getting the sap on my hands and eating something shortly thereafter, it is not that pleasant of a taste! 

Next time you visit one of our preserves, check out the milkweed plants to see what bugs are wandering around. 

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