Please indulge me with my Photo of the Day, and the rest that follow, for I have a bad case of Beetle Mania…
It all started on a hike out my back door last week. I brought my cameras along, all determined to make some fall color photos before the leaves blew away. Before I even crossed the meadow next door, I spotted some milkweed so beautifully backlit, I had to stop and shoot.
(…question to me…how can milkweed look erotic?? …answer to me…it is nature-erotic! …next question to me…why am shooting this milkweed as tho it were a nude? …next answer…it is nude! …Dummy!)
Pardon me. These were the thoughts going thru my mind. I love how nature inspires a quiet dialogue.
I will exonerate myself by saying I was under the influence of milkweed….
When I turned around in the milkweed patch, I discovered lots of red bugs congregating in a most club-like kinda scene. I literally gasped! They were brilliant and abundant and they almost made me pee my pants. They scared me in an Alfred Hitchcock swarm-attack way. But only for a split second.
Next split second I thought they were ladybugs. Sweet ladybugs…(under my breath…ladybug swarms creep me out).
Then I whipped out my reading glasses….
My curiosity was in overdrive. Who are these red bugs??? Are they good bugs or bad bugs? Milkweed is so important for the Monarchs survival, I wouldn’t want anybuggy interfering.
I continued on my hike wondering, and pulling for the red bugs the whole way…please let them be good bugs! When I got back to my Mac, I was blown away by what I learned. There was a lot of sex and noise involved.
When I googled ‘red bugs on milkweed,’ I found out they are rightly called Red Milkweed Beetles! How clever is that? Let’s stick with RMB.
After reading up on different sites, I came across my favorite RMB site from the University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee) and The BugLady…
It’s my favorite RMB site because she loves these bugs and brought them to life in a delightful way. Other sites talked about squishing them, (horror of horrors), and called them bad bugs or benign at best.
See that little RMB at the top of the pod?
There is no way she’s a bad bug…I watched her go up and down that pod for quite some time and I can safely bet, she is not a terrorist…
What I learned, is there are big RMBs and small RMBs, and they’re either bright red or orange. They can get away with that crazy coloration because they are poisonous to birds and other predators. In their own colorful body language they are saying…EAT ME AND DIE…(or at least puke).
Milkweed itself, is an interesting plant. I knew Monarch caterpillars must have milkweed to grow and survive. But what I didn’t know is milkweed is a toxic plant unless you are an RMB or a Monarch caterpillar. As they say…you are what you eat…and that’s what makes RMBs so flashy and toxic. A great reason to wear red.
Milkweed is bisexual. Milkweeds have ovaries and a stamen with a hood and a horn and lots of seeds. Who needs anything more? I…WE…IS…ARE…ONE…TOGETHER! And such poisonous badasses at that!
Even the RMBs have a time of it. They have to slow the flow of latex in the milkweed leaves, (the poison in milkweed), or their mouth parts will stick together…forever. Imagine.
I am never saying ‘zip my lips’ again…
A lady RMB might lay 80 eggs a day, or up too 2000 eggs in her lifespan, which averages one month. That seems like a ‘load on fanny,’ if you ask me….But what I love best about RMBs is the sounds they make. They purr and they squeak.
According to The BugLady, and a study in 1957, RMBs have a shrill squeak when they’re held, or stuck in milkweed, or exploring a cage, or have fallen over on their backs, or fighting.
Please note..they never get high on Milkweed. That has nothing to do with anything.
But the purrs…oh the purrs. Straight from The BugLady…
RMBs combine squeaking and purring when held in a closed fist, and when two individuals meet and touch antennae or crawl over each other. They will purr when standing motionless; but when they are quietly going about the business of crawling and feeding on milkweeds, they may purr or squeak.
I hear squeaking!!!
I hear purring!
I hear….Mom…where are you??
The coloration changes on the RMB. First there’s a solid red little nymph. Then some shedding goes on…and on…and some spots appear, and then more shedding and shagging, and wings…and heart shaped spots….according to what I read.
What I saw was another thing. Looks like a bikini heading south…Am I wrong?
Who cares…so long as you’re purring?!
I have hung out for so long with these RMBs, I’m starting to name them.There’s no buggering off when you have Beetle Mania!