Also feeding on the plant that afternoon were a great many orange and black milkweed bugs. The milkweed plant contains a toxic chemical which the milkweed bug sequesters to protect it from predators. Schuyler and I also saw bunches of tiny orange nymphs clustered on the plant, eating and growing until they too become milkweed bugs.
Today, colorful caterpillars crept along the plant stalks, larvae of the beautiful queen butterfly. The queen is closely related to the monarch and both feed exclusively on various plants in the milkweed family. This caterpillar will grow through six instars before pupating and also uses the milkweed toxicity for self protection.
I was leaning in for a picture of a queen caterpillar when I noticed a three inch praying mantis peering at me through a bulging eye. Another predatorial insect, he’s waiting to snatch a tarantula hawk wasp with his lightning fast front legs.
What a vibrant community of fantastical creatures attracted by this one plant. I guess it often happens that the more you open your eyes, the more interesting things get.