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Posts Tagged ‘Tetraopes tetrophthalmus’

“I’m the king of the world.” This Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) is not exactly Leonardo DiCaprio, but it assumed his Titanic pose after it climbed to the tip of a milkweed plant this past weekend at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia.

I have been fascinated by Red Milkweed Beetles since I first encountered them several years ago when I first started getting into macro photography. They are bright and colorful and relatively easy to find—whenever I spot a milkweed plant I immediately begin to search for these little red bugs.

There is something almost cartoonish about the appearance of the Red Milkweed Beetle, as though an artist started with the shape of a horse’s head, added the horns of a longhorn bull, and then made it a really bold color to make it stand out.

For a fleeting moment, this little beetle is the king of the world.

Red Milkweed Beetle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Everyone knows that Monarch butterflies love milkweed, but if you move in closer to the plants, you’ll discover a world of fascinating little creatures, like this Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) that I spotted this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

Almost three years ago I did a posting in which I acknowledged that I had become obsessed with shooting Red Milkweed Beetles. This weekend I realized that that my initial fascination with my colorful little friends has not diminished much over time when I saw this beetle in a small stand of swamp milkweed. I’m not sure if it is the long antennae or the bold pattern or the bright color that attracts me most—I just know that I love seeing them in all of their developmental forms (they go through several interesting instars as they grow).

The next time you see some milkweed, stop for a moment, examine it closely, and prepare to enter a fascinating little world as the scent of the flowers envelops you.

 

Red Milkweed Beetle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Two years ago in a posting, I confessed to being obsessed with photographing Red milkweed beetles (Tetraopes tetraophthalmus). Inexorably I kept finding myself being drawn back to these bright red beetles.

I thought I had outgrown my obsession, until I encountered several of my little red friend this past weekend at Green Spring Gardens. I immediately reverted to my old behavior and began to stalk them like a paparazzo, trying to get a good shot or any shot at all.

My obsession continues.

Red Milkweed BeetleRed Milkweed BeetleRed Milkweed Beetle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

 

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Last summer I confessed to being obsessed with Red Milkweed Beetles (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) in one of my postings and initial signs this summer suggest that the fascination remains strong.

This past weekend, I spotted several of my little red friends when visiting Green Spring Gardens, a local county-run historical garden, and I stalked them like a paparazzo, trying to get a good shot. I particularly like this image, in which the beetle is staring down at me from a partially eaten leaf. (I don’t know if it was the one that chewed up the leaf.)

The colors of the photo may suggest Christmas, but I am not sure that there would be much of a market for this as a Christmas card image.

redbug1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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An insect on the edge of a leaf is a perfect candidate for a macro shot and when I saw this one from a distance in my neighbor’s garden, I got to work without a clue about its identity.

When I looked at the photos initially, I thought I had captured images of a Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus), because of its bright red body and curved, segmented antennae. (I have a self-identified obsession with this insect that I discussed in a blog posting last year.) However, there were a few problems with that identification. This beetle seemed smaller; it was on a plant that was definitely not a milkweed plant; and it seemed too early to be seeing a milkweed beetle. My identification was further complicated by the fact that I never did see the back of the beetle.

So what insect did I photograph? I have been going over photos at bugguide.net, one of my favorite sources and wonder if this might be a Lily Leaf Beetle (Lilioceris lilii). Tentatively, though I like the name that I invented for this post, Red Spring Beetle.

I may not be sure about the identification of this insect, but I know that I like the photos that I managed to get, especially the first one. I captured a pretty good amount of detail and I like the way that he posed, looking directly at me.

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Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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One of my earlier post identified my obsession with the red milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus). As I hang around the milkweed plants, it’s hard not to notice another really colorful creature, especially because this seems to be its prime mating season. After a little research I’ve started to become better acquainted with the large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus). Wikipedia provided me with some good information to start and BugGuide added some additional details. I am still getting used to shooting with my macro lens so I apologize in advance that not all of the photos are super sharp. I think they help, though, in explaining some of the traits of these fascinating bugs.

It has been relatively easy to get shots of the mating milkweed bugs and my research identified why. Milkweed bugs while mating can remain connected for up to 10 hours, according to Wikipedia. Yikes! I guess those television commercials about seeing your doctor after four hours don’t apply to these bugs.

What happens after mating? An article from the Life Sciences Depart at the University of Illinois at Urbana noted that a female lays about 30 eggs a day and 2,000 during her lifetime. Egg-laying begins 1 to 15 days after mating and peaks at about 20 days.

A few days ago I came across this group of milkweed bugs. The photo is technically lacking (it was hard to get the needed depth of field) but it gives you an idea of what the large milkweed bug looks like in various stages of development. As a “true” bug, milkweed bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis. They go through a series of nymph stages, known as instars. For the large milkweed bug there are five instars. Buzzle has an article that explains the bug’s life cycle.

At each stage the bug is covered by an inflexible exoskeleton that constrains its growth. Periodically he bursts out of the exoskeleton and can grow to twice his size in minutes as the new exoskeleton develops and hardens, according to the Buzzle article. Here’s a shot of a bug in one of the earlier nymph stages.

As the milkweed bugs get older the wing pads increase in size in each molt. In the next three photos the wing pads are visible but not yet really prominent.

The wings on this nymph are much more prominent, leading me to think he might almost be an adult. The Buzzle article noted that the entire process of metamorphosis, from egg to adult takes 4-8 weeks, depending on the temperature of the habitat.

Once the large milkweed bug has become and adult (as shown in the last couple of photos) mating begins 5 to 12 days after the last molt for females and two to three days for males, according to the University of Illinois article. And the circle of life continues.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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