Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Another podcast*

with 27 comments

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Once the flowers of Asclepias asperula, or antelope-horns milkweed, get pollinated, the plant goes to work producing seed pods with a surface that some sources describe as warty. Judge for yourselves whether you think that’s a good word—if you can take your eyes off the brightly colored little creatures that often hang out on these pods or other parts of the plant. The insects shown here appear to be nymphs of Oncopeltus fasciatus, known as the large milkweed bug.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


* I first used the word podcast last summer in connection with a different local milkweed species, Asclepias viridiflora.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 21, 2012 at 5:34 AM

27 Responses

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  1. Awesome photo – great detail – but ewwwwww, yucky bugs!! LOL


    May 21, 2012 at 5:44 AM

  2. Beautiful!

    Bonnie Michelle

    May 21, 2012 at 6:22 AM

  3. Fascinating focus and details!!!!! The bugs’ vertical holds make me think of the Wicked song, Defying Gravity. (Although I don’t comment as often as I have previously, I do view the posts as they come in and often consider commenting.)


    May 21, 2012 at 6:36 AM

    • I’ve noticed that because insects weigh so little, gravity doesn’t seem to faze them. I expect to show an upside-down insect again soon. (Comment whenever the mood is upon you, Wanda.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 21, 2012 at 6:46 AM

  4. What a lovely shot! It is very well taken! =)


    May 21, 2012 at 6:51 AM

    • Thank you. Some of the nymphs moved around or fled (there were originally more than shown here), but others stayed put and let me take pictures like this one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 21, 2012 at 6:59 AM

  5. The lowly Ugly Bugs get no respect in this world. Thank goodness Burl Ives knew that even Ugly Bugs need love too! I love this song and the singer. I shared this with my little students when we studied insects in class.

    Great photo, Steve! ~ Lynda

    Burl Ives sings The Ugly Bug Ball: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fsKP-EtByA
    (I really hope this is just a link and doesn’t invade your page with the video!)


    May 21, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    • Thanks for your link, Lynda. I remember Burl Ives but I never head that song before. The title originally made me think of a bunch of ugly bugs all heaped up into a ball, but that’s not the kind of ball it turned out to be. As for “ugly,” that’s in the mind of the beholder, isn’t it?

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 21, 2012 at 8:49 AM

      • My point exactly! My short list of ugly bugs: Roaches, ticks, fleas, chiggers, and Brown Recluse (though actually an arachnid). Favorite bug that is actually quite ugly? Stenopelmatus fuscus (aka: Jerusalem Cricket aka: the Potato Bug). I have an informative link for this creature, but I don’t want to be a pest… 😉


        May 21, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      • I have no fondness for the ugly bugs you list, but there are entomologists who get to know and love them.

        Steve Schwartzman

        May 21, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    • That YouTube video is great! Does boggle the mind if I thought kids would be getting lessons about caterpillar courtship. 🙂

      Your YouTube video reference spurred me to think about the Boll Weevil song by Brook Benton, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tQrGZ5crto. Lyrics are at http://www.metrolyrics.com/the-boll-weevil-song-1961-ascd320-lyrics-brook-benton.html. (I’m veering sideways regarding bugs.)


      May 22, 2012 at 6:48 AM

      • Your veering sideways doesn’t bug me at all; a math bug myself, I’ve been known to crawl off on tangents. I’ll add that cotton, beloved of boll weevils, isn’t native to Texas but played a huge part in the development of the state. The cotton blossom was once proposed as the state flower of Texas, but the native bluebonnet won out.

        Steve Schwartzman

        May 22, 2012 at 7:00 AM

  6. Wow… the colors are fantastic… I had goose bumps looking at the bugs…


    May 21, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    • The colors certainly are bright. As for your goose bumps, perhaps they came about in response to the bumps on the milkweed pod.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 21, 2012 at 4:32 PM

  7. […] in contrast to the earlier stage shown in the last post, here’s what a large milkweed bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus, looks like […]

  8. WOW!

    H2O by Joanna

    May 21, 2012 at 1:42 PM

  9. Great shot and those are pretty colorful critters!!!


    May 21, 2012 at 3:37 PM

  10. I had to refresh my knowledge on nymphs and bugs, and discovered that not everything I call a bug is a bug. True bugs don’t have a mouth to bite and chew, for example – they have a little tube for sucking liquids, a kind of built-in straw. That means the Cootie game I played as a kid was modeled after a true bug – the plastic Cooties we built had little proboscis thingies.

    I did love this line from an article on milkweed bug development: “There is no pupal resting stage as in insects that undergo complete metamorphosis—the large nymph simply molts, and away walks the adult.” I’ll bet there are some parents who’d enjoy that kind of dynamic in human kids. 😉


    May 21, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    • As you’ve found, every true bug is in the colloquial category of bugs, but that colloquial category includes many sorts of insects in addition to true bugs. Some true bugs, like assassin bugs, use their proboscis to spear prey and extract nourishment: quite ghastly.

      I like your fantasy of human “nymphs” molting into adults. If they misbehaved while still in the nymph stage, parents could threaten to sic large assassin bugs on them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 21, 2012 at 4:43 PM

  11. Your macro photography reminds me of how much of this world is unseen, in the routine of our daily routine. Many dream of going to the stars, and discovering new worlds… but neglect the many worlds that exist in a parallel reality to ours, separated by size or living conditions… Thanks for a beautiful post.


    May 21, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    • And thanks for your reflection on the existence of a parallel reality close at hand but so small that we require instruments to see it. As much as I’ve enjoyed my conventional macro lens, I’ve often thought how much fun it would be to photograph things through a microscope, where much tinier details are revealed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 21, 2012 at 10:52 PM

      • I’ve actually had the pleasure of photographing through a microscope, in some of my professional work, and in that sense… seeing a different world… the experience is even more dramatic. But I think that macro photography offers the greatest possibilities; the colors, the shapes, and the stories available are so enchanting.


        May 21, 2012 at 11:21 PM

      • Sometimes the smaller things are best not seen by some!


        May 22, 2012 at 1:42 PM

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