Walking out of our yard today to walk Bonita the Beagle, I glanced quickly over a few young milkweeds growing on our curb next to the street. Something under one of the leaves caught my eye. This, to be exact:
Bonita the Beagle was visibly miffed at being dragged back into the house and stashed in the foyer while I grabbed a camera and rushed back out to record this unusual (to me) life and death drama. At first I was convinced that this was some kind of a small weevil feeding on this young monarch caterpillar. Later on, after the heat of the battle had faded and I had time to scour the internet, I’m pretty darned sure that this is the nymph of Spined Soldier Bug (Podisus maculiventris).
Judging from the 2-3 millimeter size and the coloration and patterns, I suspect it is a 2nd instar (to see more stages, go here).
These little munchers seem to be pretty voracious in all their stages and are found pretty much all over the U.S. and up into Canada, but I had never seen one doing this before. Keep in mind that this tiny bug is bearing the entire weight of the relatively huge caterpillar by its mouth parts, probably slurping that poor thing up like a malted milk shake while it’s doing it. Yum.
Too bad in a way. Monarchs don’t need any more enemies these days, but nature is what it is. In our yard, it’s pretty much what it wants to be.
Oh, yeah. Bonita the Beagle got to resume her walk a little later. She seems to have forgiven me.