Currently viewing the tag: "Milkweed Meadow"

Subject: What is that bug drinking from my milkweed plants?
Location: Massachusetts
August 12, 2017 5:25 pm
I saw a few of these very dark large wasp-like fliers feeding from my common milkweed plants today. Coastal Massachusetts. Very quick flier. Hard to get close to. Thanks!!!
Rob S.
Signature: Rob

Great Black Wasp

Hi Rob,
This is a Great Black Wasp and this image is gorgeous.  Female Great Black Wasps hunt Katydids to provision an underground nest where the larval wasps are developing.  The Great Black Wasp, 
Sphex pensylvanicus, and the Great Golden Digger Wasp, Sphex ichneumoneus, are classified together in the same genus.   This submission and your previous two postings are all being archived on our Milkweed Meadow tag.

Subject: Is this a Bombus affinis?
Location: Massachusetts USA
August 11, 2017 7:18 am
Is this bumblebee feeding on a milkweed plant in Massachusetts a Bombus affinis?
Rob S
Signature: Rob

Brown Belted Bumble Bee

Dear Rob,
This does indeed look like a Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee, a species represented on BugGuide with sightings in the midwest, though BugGuide does state:  “MN to IN, plus a few remaining sites on east coast, see map per Xerces Society. Formerly Upper Midwest and Eastern North America: Ontario to New Brunswick, south to North Carolina. Historically known from more than 25 states.”  BugGuide also provides this sobering information:  “Declines of this species were first noted by John S. Ascher at Ithaca, New York, ca. 2001 when populations that were conspicuous in the late 1990s could not be located. At this and many other localities across its historic range affinis is no longer detected, but it has been shown to persist locally in the midwest and in New England.  Abrupt and severe declines of this and other bumble bee species in this subgenus were widely reported soon after development of the commercial bumble bee industry and detection of high rates of parasitism in managed colonies.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced (Sept. 21, 2016) that it is proposing to list the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.”  According to the Xerces Society:  “The rusty patched bumble bee is a species of bumble bee native to eastern North America. Its’ workers and males have a small rust-colored patch on the middle of their second abdominal segment. This bee was once commonly distributed throughout the east and upper Midwest of the United States, but has declined from an estimated 87% of its historic range in recent years. The rusty-patched bumble bee was once an excellent pollinator of wildflowers, cranberries, and other important crops, including plum, apple, alfalfa and onion seed.  Responding to a petition filed by the Xerces Society in 2013 to list the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) finalized the ruling and gave the rusty patched bumble bee endangered status under the ESA in January of 2017.”  If your identification and our confirmation are correct, you might want to report your significant Massachusetts sighting to the Bumble Bee Watch as recommended by the Xerces Society Citizen Science program.

Thank you very much Daniel!

Update:  December 12, 2019
We just received a comment from Chris Smith that this is actually “a male
Bombus griseocollis” a Brown Belted Bumble Bee.  Here is a link to BugGuide where it states:  “Diagnostic characters include black wings, black head, low position of ocelli, short dense hairs on thorax, and belt of contrasting brown hairs at base of T2. Males have large eyes. See detailed description of queen and male at  Tongue length: medium.”

Subject: What is this feeding on milkweed?
Location: Massachusetts USA
August 11, 2017 7:17 am
What is this insect feeding on milkweed in coastal Massachusetts? Thank you!!!!
Signature: Rob S

Great Golden Digger Wasp

Dear Rob,
Flowers from milkweed are a great source of food for nectaring insects, including this gorgeous Great Golden Digger Wasp.  This is a solitary wasp and it is not aggressive towards humans.  Great Golden Digger Wasps prey on Katydids that the female paralyzes and provides as food for her brood that develops in an underground chamber.

Wow Daniel! Thank you for the ID and the information!
Rob S.

Subject: Monarch Butterfly egg
Location: Clinton Twp, MI 48036
August 10, 2017 9:17 am
I was wondering do all monarch eggs hatch? I collected what I thought were monarch eggs and check twice a day…some just disappear???? Is this possible? Thank you.
Signature: Cindy Richards

Monarch Egg

Dear Cindy,
If every insect egg that was ever laid eventually hatched and matured, humans would quickly get displaced on the planet.  We don’t know the circumstances of your collection process, or where the eggs are being housed once they are collected.   Are you collecting just the eggs, or the leaves?  How are you keeping the leaves fresh once you collect the eggs?  Why are you not leaving the eggs in place?   Many caterpillars eat the egg shell after hatching, and that provides their first meal.  Though your image does not have the same critical detail as this Learner.Org image of a Monarch Egg, they do appear quite similar.  Regarding eggs just disappearing, it is possible they are falling prey to something. 

Thank you for responding.  I cut off part of the milkweed leaf with the egg and kept them in a pan in the garage.  Yesterday I cut the entire leaf and carefully placed just the leaf stem in a vase of water in the house.  I removed the eggs because the milkweed was covered with ants and other bugs – I was afraid the eggs would be devoured.  We also have a large bird population.

Subject: Milkweed diners
Location: SW Virginia
August 6, 2017 1:02 pm
Hi, what are these caterpillars I saw skeletonizing milkweed leaves? SW Virginia, late July. Thank you!
Signature: wondering

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars

Dear wondering,
These are Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars, and they are a common species in eastern North America.

Subject: Bug ID
Location: Bois Blanc Island, MI
February 9, 2017 1:07 pm
Last July, on an inland hike on Bois Blanc Island, MI we discovered swamp milkweed covered in these insects. I have zero idea what they were and had never seen them before. But curiosity has the best of me and I would like to know what they were if possible.
Signature: B. Dunn

Fungus Gnats, we believe

Dear B. Dunn,
At first we thought these might be March Flies, but they do not feed and most insects attracted to milkweed blossoms do so because of the rich nectar they provide.  We then entertained they might be Soft Winged Flower Beetles, but that did not look correct, so we contacted Eric Eaton for assistance.

Eric Eaton provides a possible identification.
These remind me of dark-winged fungus gnats, family Sciaridae, but I cannot tell for certain from this one image.

Ed. Note:  This BugGuide image supports Eric Eaton’s identification.  Though BugGuide does not provide any information on adult food preferences, BugGuide does contain some images of adult Dark Winged Fungus Gnats feeding from blossoms.

Fungus Gnats, we believe