Milkweed Metropolis

Posted Monday June 15, 2020

You can see it’s not just Monarchs that come to milkweed! 

This video shows just a few minutes in the spring at a blooming Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).   You too may want to plant milkweed and then watch who comes!

Right at the beginning, you see a wheel bug nymph going up the stem and a leather-winged beetle among the red-eyed tachinid flies.   Tachinid flies are “parasitoids.”  They lay their eggs on other insects and the larvae then feed on the hosts, eventually killing them.   (Parasites, in contrast, are animals that feed on others without killing them.)   

There were no monarch caterpillars on this profusely blooming plant--it wouldn't have been safe for them with all those parasitoids around!   

See that beautiful black butterfly?   That’s a male Black Swallowtail.  He’s pretty big but he still gives ground to a beetle, while another butterfly—a Banded Hairstreak—sips nectar amid the flies.  if we look closely, we can see why that fly in the center isn't moving: there are well-camouflaged spider legs beneath it. Two tachinid flies hook up, and tiny iridescent green jewel beetles wander about. Ants swarm on a dead moth, and unidentified others (a tiny lady beetle? a crane fly?) put in appearances. helped identify all these creatures.  And yet behind and around all the identified ones are unidentified winged- and crawling creatures still in the realm of mystery.  So much still to be discovered!


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