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I was over at Tohono Chul Park the other morning searching for interesting things to photograph and not having much luck. It was an overcast morning with a very slight drizzle and the butterflies and most other insects were laying low. I was about to quit when I saw a flash of color on the stem of a milkweed plant. Looking closely, I discovered this.
This is a milkweed bug, a fairly common insect. Like all bugs it survives by sucking juices and its mouth parts have evolved into a long soda straw-like structure. You can see this on this insect, folded against the bug’s head and thorax, beginning between the antennae and extending rearward.
Milkweed bugs come in brilliant shades of red and orange contrasted against a gray background. Why would something as innocuous as this little insect be so brilliantly colored? Well, milkweed sap is toxic to most creatures but not to the milkweed bug. It happily consumes the sap and, as a consequence, its own tissues become saturated with toxic chemicals. Perhaps its brilliant colors warn would-be predators that eating this insect is a non-starter.
At any rate, the bug’s bright colors reminded me of the scarlet and orange maple leaves that one sees in autumn in the northeastern United States. We don’t get that type of autumn here, so one must take one’s pleasure where he or she finds it.
Photo taken with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens, assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, ISO 100, f8 @ 1/160.