I noticed this critter for the first time earlier this year. I'd never seen it before. The red and black markings are so striking, especially the black heart on the red back, I thought it should be well-known and easily identifiable.
I took some earlier, bad photos, but lucked out with these. Still not as crisp as I would like. It was difficult to photograph, since I had to get so close with the lens and it kept moving around. Guessing that it was in the Order Hemiptera, the "true bugs", I found some matching photos on Bug Guide, which identified it as Lygaeus kalmii, Small Milkweed Bug.
L. kalmii is in the Lygaeidae Family, the seed bugs. Milkweed bugs eat, incredibly, milkweed seeds. I've said the flowers above are "unidentified," since I simply scattered some extra seed in that spot in the garden this spring and didn't label it. But now that I think of it, I did have seed of some Ascelpias species, so this is probably one of them. Insects helping me identify what I planted in the garden ... I like that.
The black and red-orange coloration is shared among many species which feed on milkweed, including Monarch butterflies. It's a warning to predators, such as birds, that they taste bad, from concentrating bitter compounds from the milkweeds in their bodies.
- Bug Guide
- University of Arizona, Center for Insect Science Education Outreach, Milkweed bug
- Tree of Life
Tags: Insects, Hemiptera, Lygaeoidea, Lygaeus kalmii, Milkweed bug