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Did you guess the identities of the milkweed insects from last week?  Let's check.

  1. The yellow-orange insects on the stem are aphids. More specifically, they are the oleander aphid, Aphis nerii.  Hint:  Aphids are the ones with two "tailpipes" or cornicles on the back.

2. The red and black one insect might be hard to tell from this angle, but it is a true bug. A little one with two white dots in the wing is a small milkweed bug, Lygaeus kalmii.

3. This one was tough because the photograph isn't very close. It is an assassin bug, Zelus renardii. It is probably waiting for a bee or fly to capture.

4. I think everyone recognized the praying mantis. In this case, it is the Mediterranean mantis,  Iris oratoria. (See previous post).

5. This one is tricky. Cirrelda correctly recognized it is a lady beetle.

6.  The pale green oval at the end of the hairlike stalk is the egg of a lacewing. (Life cycle in previous post).

7. The cute striped caterpillar will turn into a monarch butterfly.

At this time of year, the butterfly will probably migrate farther north to lay its eggs on another milkweed plant.

We're glad it stopped by.

We have talked about aphid mummies before. They are the hardened shells formed when the aphids are parasitized by tiny wasps.

aphid-mummies-316This week the oleander aphids, Aphis nerii, have a high percentage of mummies. In fact, it was hard to find healthy bright yellow aphids. The mummies are all the beige to dark brown forms.

alate-aphid-mummy-227In this photograph there's a winged aphid that is mummified (the only live aphid is right behind it).


If you look closely, you can see the dark round hole in the back to the aphid's abdomen where the adult wasp emerged.

Parasitic wasps are one reason aphids may disappear from plants so quickly.


Last week I gave you two photographs that were teeming with insects. Many of you recognized the orange-yellow bumps were aphids.

Okay, it is very small, but between the legs of the butterfly is a newly hatched caterpillar. See the little guy with the black head at the arrow tip? It is a monarch butterfly caterpillar.

In this video, you can see one hatching under a microscope. (Video has music).

Another insect is hidden within those dark-colored aphids.

See the ones that are black or dark red? They are parasitized, which means they are carrying a tiny wasp larva inside them.

Eventually the dark aphids will stiffen and cling to the stem. In that stage they are called an aphid mummy. After a few days the larvae inside will complete its life cycle, pupate and then emerge as an adult wasp.

Photograph by Sarefo

You can see where a wasp emerged from this aphid mummy through the round hole in the back.

Here's the tiny wasp that emerged from the hole. She will lay her eggs in yet more aphids, resulting in yet more aphid mummies.

Finally, there is one other interesting thing about this picture. See that the butterfly has its mouthparts extended? I watched this butterfly for several minutes before taking its picture. It was sucking up the honeydew from the aphids.

We got to see all this because we planted a special plant in our yard. Do you have any plants that attract insects in your yard?