So here are all these milkweed bugs clustered on a showy milkweed leaf, Asclepias speciosa. It's early morning and the red bugs are a real eye opener.
They're seed eaters, but as Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology says: "They are opportunistic and generalists." They not only eat seeds, but monarch eggs and larvae, as well as the oleander aphids that infest the milkweed.
But wait, one of these is not like the other.
A lady beetle, aka ladybug, photobombs the scene. It sleeps with them and eats (aphids) with them. They are sharing the same food source: oleander aphids.
It's the Fourth of July, and amid our celebration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776 and our glorious nation, we celebrate the red, white and blue--the colors of our flag.
But in the insect world, we can also celebrate the red, white and blue:
The red: The firecracker red flameskimmer dragonfly, Libellula saturata, a common dragonfly of the family Libellulidae, native to western North America. We love to see it perched on a bamboo stake in our pollinator garden.
The white: The delicate, petticoated cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae, common throughout much of the world, including North and South America, Europe, Great Britain, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Beauty? Yes. It absolutely glows in the late afternoon sun. Beast? Yes. The caterpillar or larva is a serious pest of our cole crops, including cabbage, kale and mustard.
The blue: The blue spots in the tail of the Western tiger swallowtail, Papilio rutulus, a common swallowtail butterfly of North America. Its range stretches from much of North America, from British Columbia to North Dakota in the north to Baja California and New Mexico in the south, according to Wikipedia.
We've never been able to capture an image of a flameskimmer, cabbage white butterfly or Western tiger swallowtail in the same photo, but they don't need to be. Individually, their colors are strong and independent, just like our forefathers who signed the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago.
Hurray for the red, white and blue!
One more day until we celebrate the birth of our country, Independence Day, and the patriotic colors will be out in force.
Insects, also, can be red, white and blue.
Take the red flameskimmer dragonfly (Libellula saturata). The male is firecracker red, as bright as the stripes on our American flag.
Take the Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon) butterfly. It's as blue as the starry background on our flag.
Take the white cabbage butterfly (Pieris rapae). it's a white as the stars on our flag. Okay, it's a pest, but its colors are appropriate on July 4.
Just think, when the members of the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, there were all those red, white and blue insects flying around.
We mark the holiday with fireworks, family reunions, parades, barbecues, carnivals, picnics, concerts, baseball games, and the like, but if we look closely, the insects are there, too!