Friday, July 22, 2011

no use crying over spilled milk(weed)

Howdy devoted readers! Hot enough for ya? Here’s an idea: let’s drive down into New Jersey in the middle of a massive heat wave, to spend time with extended family. This time we were smart: we took the car with the more-or-less functional air conditioner.
We spent the day at the beach with a thousand of our closest friends.
The waves were big, the lifeguards vigilantly blowing their whistles from atop their throne to herd the throngs inside the tiny official swimming area. I successfully avoided the beach cops patrolling the crowds to enforce the $5/day beach pass rule. I just admitted to being a scofflaw, I realize that. But hey: as far as I’m concerned the beach is for everyone, not just the folks with five bucks. Besides, I spent that five bucks a couple times over on most excellent Jersey Shore PIZZA. Pizza for lunch…pizza for dinner… Please, someone, hand me a vegetable.
Now for the nature bits. MILKWEED! Right along the driveway of the house my brother-in-law and his wife have rented for the week was a whole row of milkweed – and they’ve already formed lovely gigantic pods.
Well, some are little.
And some are big.

Some were covered with Aphis nerii – Oleander aphids (thanks,!).


Some were ALSO covered by – get this, what a great name - Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus). When they’re fully grown, they look like this:
Actual conversation between a certain unnamed next-generation member of the family – aged 9 – and myself and his mother. “They’re mating,” says he. “Yep,” we agree. “How do they stay stuck together? Glue?” “Nope,” says his mother. End of conversation.
The Large Milkweed Bug is not the only creature having fun on the milkweed.
A Monarch butterfly in the caterpillar stage. My niece asked a great question: how do you tell where the head is?
Because this is one end…

…and this is the other end.
If it had been resting, and not chewing vigorously, I’m not sure I would have been able to tell!
We’re back home in Vermont now. I plan on learning just how those milkweed pods form, as I have never seen the process from the beginning.

1 comment:

  1. I've often seen Oncopeltus fasciatus on the species of milkweed that we have in central Texas. Are you as fond as I am of photographing the seeds and fluff that come out of the pods?