Friday, September 23, 2005

The Monarch's not the only milkweed-loving insect

Large Milkweed Bug [Oncopeltus fasciata]
Photo by Regina Alvarez

Regina Alvarez, the Central Park Conservancy's Woodlands Manager, who has long served as a valuable liaison between the powers-that-be and the park's so-called "Nature Community" [i.e. people like you and me] just sent me the following note and photographs. For those of you interested in more details about the insect, I'll include some info after Regina's note:

Hello Marie -

I thought you might like to check out the milkweed bugs we have on the swamp milkweed in the Ramble, if you have not already seen them. I am sending you a few photos. They are in the wildflower edge planting of the small lawn at the Ramble parking lot, just across the path from the drinking fountain. Since you posted that whole series about the monarch, I thought this might interest you because this insect also sequesters the toxins from the milkweed and has the black and orange warning colors. Apparantly there are also mimics out there that have the color but not the toxins, the viceroy, for example.

Anyway, you may have seen this and know all of this already, but I figured, just in case...


More Information about Milkweed Bugs

Milkweed Bugs are in the Seed bug family [Lygaeidae], and in the order of Hemiptera -- True Bugs. Monarch Butterflies, in comparison, are in the Milkweed Butterfly family [Danaidae] and in the order of Lepidoptera [
Moths and Butterflies].

The Hemiptera , called True Bugs to distinguish them from other insects people simply refer to as "bugs" , number about 4,500 species in North America. Almost all members of this order have a first pair of wings that fold flat over the back. The hind pair, which are the flying wings, are slightly shorter than the fore pair. True bugs have sucking mouthparts in the form of a beak, usually found far forward on the head, rather than at the back of the head, as in the case of cicadas.

PS Other well-known members of the Hemiptera order are: Bedbugs [!], Water Striders, Assassin Bugs, Ambush Bugs, and Stink Bugs,

[Source: National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders.]