By Sandra Nelson
My butterfly weed has been taken over by bright orange bugs. At first glance, I thought they were lady bugs attacking aphids– about the right size and shape — but before long I knew something else was at work. Almost overnight they had changed into slender insects with long black legs and antennae and an even longer, somewhat menacing proboscis. What was this exotic new insect?
Turns out it isn’t an exotic or even new insect. The bugs attacking my butterfly weed are Large Milkweed Bugs, an insect species that is becoming much more common in home landscapes now that gardeners are planting butterfly milkweed to attract monarch butterflies.
Large Milkweed Bugs are sucking insects that feed on the stems, leaves and seed pods of milkweed. They are found in groups, usually in late summer and early autumn. Because their bodies contain a toxin derived from the milkweed sap, they are typically not consumed by birds or other predators.
Despite appearing in large numbers, large milkweed bugs are not particularly harmful to milkweed plants; any damage they inflict is relatively minor. No chemical control is usually needed. Insecticidal soaps can also be used to control infestations.