Milkweed Bugs

Q: Last evening I noticed my Mexican butterfly flower’s seed pods were covered up in these little orange bugs that I have not seen before. They are orange with two black spots on their backs about where their shoulders would be.

They have 6 legs and antenna and a black head. I did not kill these as I was hoping they might be beneficial. Any thoughts?

A: You saw young milkweed bugs. These insects form clusters on milkweed plants, where they eat the seeds. Milkweed bugs have few predators because they concentrate in their bodies bad tasting compounds found in the sap of milkweed plants.

Entomologists like to study and work with milkweed bugs because they are easy to raise in a lab, where they can be fed pumpkin seeds.

In general, the insects are harmless unless you are trying to raise milkweed. They never eat 100% of the seeds so some milkweed plants always manage to survive, germinate and continue their existence.

milkweed bugs (young)

milkweed bugs (adult)

milkweed bugs

milkweed bugs

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