No bad bugs
Photo credit: Michael Raupp, University of Maryland
There are no bad bugs. There are just bugs.
That's the kind of answer you get from University of Maryland entomologist Dr. Michael Raupp, the scientist behind the blog "Bug of the Week."
So when I asked him if the ladybug lookalikes crawling all over my butterfly weed were "bad bugs," he said with a shrug, "Bad for the milkweed seeds."
My butterfly weed has formed its pods and they are opening and sending out the same kind of fluffy seed carriers that milkweed produces.
Working in the garden this weekend, I found the pods literally crawling with these little black and orange creatures.
Dr. Raupp explained that they are milkweed bugs and the adults insert stout beaks through the leathery cover the seed pod and secrete digestive enzymes into the enclosed seeds. The liquified meal is then sucked up into the beak and into the gullet where it is digested and used for growth, develoment and the production of eggs.
The eggs are laid on the surface of the plant and hatch into small orange and black milkweed bug nymphs. They nymphs, too, eat the milkweed seeds.
The good news is, my butterfly weed is a perennial and I don't need the seeds for it to return next year.