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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Aposematic Coloration

Orange and black are colors of warning, "aposematic," at least in the insect world. They usually mean "I don't taste good and will make you sick" to other insects and birds. In fact, some insects have adapted to use the colors when they don't taste bad at all, but the warning still works.

The reason a lot of them taste bad is that they feed on the leaves of milkweed and milkweed relatives. The sap of these contains high levels of cardiac glycosides. If you've ever accidentally tasted milkweed sap you know how bitter it tastes. (And this is why you should only eat baby milkweed greens and boil them thoroughly)

Today I found two of these little larvae on some milkweed. It will become the Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle, Labidomera clivicollis, which is-- you guessed it-- orange and black.

swamp milkweed leaf beetle larvae

This is common milkweed, but they aren't too picky although they prefer swamp milkweed. They can chew through a lot of milkweed, but they are native, so I'll let them live.

swamp milkweed leaf beetle larvae

I did learn that you want to be careful to never get milkweed sap in an eye-- it can cause severe inflammation and blurred vision for days. You'd think with all the bad press giant hogweed is getting that someone would mention the danger of this common plant. I also can't believe I've never had this happen, since I rub my eyes way too much.

Right next door on a goldenrod were some End Band Net-wing beetles, adults, Calopteron terminale.

end band net wing beetles

Ah! I did find what I was looking for-- a Monarch caterpillar.

monarch caterpillar

In other news: I started planning hike food, but didn't get enough done to bother to share yet. Walked 4 miles with 26 pounds. Oof. I'm not in very good shape. Started writing the next chapter of DMS Mistletoe. Oh yeah, and I did laundry.

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Ann said...

And here I thought orange and black were just Halloween colors. Very interesting.
I don't think I would make it 4 miles carrying 26 pounds. I'm the poster child for out of shape.

Secondary Roads said...

I was excited when I saw a monarch yesterday. We leave the milkweed alone for the caterpillars to feed on.

The Oceanside Animals said...

hello sharkbytes its dennis the vizsla dog hay hmm maybe that is why dada got himself an orandj car he is tired of his cars gitting eeten by godzilla and other jiant monsters!!! ok bye