Milkweed Bugs, Large & Small

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Last year I wrote a blog about the milkweed bug , which is also called the . It’s the kind I usually seeon milkweed stems and leaves or sunning themselves on objects near milkweed.

Large milkweed bugs, Oncopeltus fasciatus, sunning on a fence rail. Adults sport a bright pattern of two black spots adn a wide black band on a orange-red background.

This week I stopped to look at the milkweed bug pictured below. It was sitting on milkweed flowers where its colors contrasted beautifully with the pink and cream blossoms. Looking more closely I saw by the pattern on its back that it was not the kind I usually see. It was the other milkweed bug: , also called the .

A small milkweed bug, Lygaeus kalmii. The adult pattern is usually described as a red X on black, but I see a black heart and three red triangles on a red background.

Like large milkweed bugs, small milkweed bugs also mainly eat milkweed seeds, piercing them with a sharp beak, injecting enzymes, and then sucking up the dissolved food. Both kinds of milkweed bugs also sometimes drink nectar from flowers — the one above may have been having a sip when I spotted it.

Julie Feinstein

Julie Feinstein

I am a Collection Manager at the American Museum of Natural History, an author, and a photographer. I live in New York City. I recently published my first popular science book, Field Guide to Urban Wildlife, an illustrated collection of natural history essays about common animals. I update my blog, Urban Wildlife Guide, every Sunday.

Julie Feinstein

Julie Feinstein

I am a Collection Manager at the American Museum of Natural History, an author, and a photographer. I live in New York City. I recently published my first popular science book, Field Guide to Urban Wildlife, an illustrated collection of natural history essays about common animals. I update my blog, Urban Wildlife Guide, every Sunday.

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