Death on a Milkweed

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:

Podisus maculiventris

Spined Soldier Bug nymph eating Monarch Butterfly caterpillar

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).

Podisus maculiventris

Spined Soldier Bug nymph (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.

Podisus maculiventris

Spined Soldier Bug nymphcarrying Monarch Butterfly caterpillar down milkweed stem

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.


This entry was posted in Insects, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Death on a Milkweed

  1. Dawn says:

    I expect you love what you do as much as I love what you share. Probably more. Thanks. Keep lovin’.

  2. Yes, nature can be cruel. And especially hard to take with a creature whose numbers (or at least migration numbers) are limited. I’ve been freaking out lately with lots of squealing baby birds and large numbers of crows in the neighborhood. Makes me want to close the windows.

  3. roug says:

    That is a great (if grisly) picture and makes it clear that this is not the weevil that attacked my caterpillars a couple years ago. Where I live I will not see monarchs for at least another month. I’m looking forward to their return–the weevils–not so much.

    • Randy Tindall says:

      Thanks for getting back to me. I was sure this was a weevil when I first saw it, but it didn’t take too long to track the real identity. I don’t know if you use, but it’s a super resource. You can register for free and upload pictures for experts to identify.

  4. Sarah says:

    what is the name of the beetle that is eating the milkweed?

  5. Sarah says:

    oh i didint mention i love butterflyes so thats why i whant to know the name of that beetle thing 😉

Leave a Reply to Randy Tindall Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *