One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Here’s a tiny mystery for you!

Mystery #157

What are these dots on the leaf? And for a bonus, what is the plant?

Check in with you later for your guesses!


Too tiny to make out? How about this one?

Monarch eggs on Common Milkweed

Or this one?

Monarch egg cluster

These are Monarch butterfly eggs! The female Monarch always lays them on a species of milkweed. This is the Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. In six days the teeny caterpillar will hatch.

Monarch caterpillar newly hatched, 6 days after egg laid

As it eats the milkweed leaves, it grows–this one about a week old.

Monarch caterpillar a week old How much they eat determines how fast they grow, and then how long it takes them to form a chrysalis. This caterpillar is ready.

Monarch caterpillar ready to turn to a chrysalis

Monarch Chrysalis

The butterfly emerges in 10-14 days, ready to start the process all over again!

Monarch butterfly


One Of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey There!

Long time no see! We are on our winter break, but because Northern Virginia has seen little snow so far, I want to poke this in for a substitute.

Mystery #110

What is it?

Give me your guesses and I’ll check back later.


I don’t suppose this one is too much of a mystery since we featured Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, several times this summer. See the posts here and here. These are the seeds, now escaping from their pods, dry and fluffing out.

Common Milkweed Seedpod

It’s just such a great native plant!

Common Milkweed

This stand of the wildflowers gone to seed was along a suburban street near us–lots of sun and in a place humans can easily see it. Street flowers.

street flowers

Hope your fall to winter transition is going well!

The Milkweed Community

Common Milkweed

The Squirrel Nutwork has featured Monarch caterpillars again and again on the Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. But that’s not the only insect using the plant–flowers and leaves–for food, or to find food. Take a look at the many insects we squirrels have seen this summer on this stand of milkweed plants.



Honey Bees on Milkweed


Wasp on Milkweed


Ants on Milkweed

Ants. Lots of ants!


Net Beetle Calopteron

Large Milkweed Bug

Aphids on Milkweed


Ladybug Larvae

Ladybugs in the larval stage, which eat aphids!

Ladybug on Milkweed

Adult ladybugs, which also eat aphids.

Assasin Bug on Milkweed

Assasin Bugs

Banded Hairstreak on Milkweed

Banded Hairstreak

little red bugs on milkweed pod

And lastly a little red bug we where not able to identify until we came across the website, Restoring the Landscape With Native Plants. This is the larvae of the Large Milkweed Bug. If you have bugs on your milkweed, see if you might be able to identify them through Restoring the Landscape’s Milkweed page.

And remember, the bugs there are all good!

Milkweed Community

Our mystery plant from Sunday, the Common Milkweed, feeds many nectar-seeking insects. Here are a few we saw on the plants. Besides the bees, the only one we are able to identify is this first butterfly, the Silvery Checkerspot.

Silvery Checkerspot

Bees on Common Milkweed

skipper on Common Milkweed

insect on a Milkweed leaf

Let us know what insects you see on your milkweed plants!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there folks!

This week’s mystery almost looks like last week’s.

Mystery #67

But surly you’ll notice this set little balls is attached to a plant.


This is a rather tricky one, but hey, they wouldn’t be worthy mysteries if they weren’t! Today we’re looking at the buds of Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca.

Common Milkweed

The open flowers form pink balls of flowers at the joints of the broad, oval leaves.

Common Milkweed flower

Miz Flora tells me humans used this plant for many things in olden times, like the fiber for ropes and coarse cloth. Some people ate part of it, specially prepared, but it is highly poisonous. DO NOT EAT this plant.

Insects may feed on the flower nectar, but only one insect—that Miz Flora knows of—feeds on the toxic leaves. The caterpillar of the Monarch Butterfly. They rely on milkweeds of many varieties—all toxic to humans—as their ONLY food. And as you might have guessed, the poison stays in their bodies, even when they metamorphose to butterflies, and tastes nasty to birds. One monarch in a lifetime is likely all a bird will try. Talk about a weird plant-insect association.

For more information on the Common Milkweed, check out this USDA plant guide.

Common Milkweed

We managed to find the main plant those Monarch butterflies feed on—Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca.  You don’t see them too often in the suburbs, but we found it growing along a sidewalk. Notice the chewed leaves at the top of the plants–we hope that is from Monarch caterpillars eating them!

The green pods are ripening with those fuzzy seeds that float everywhere.

I’m wondering where the ladybugs are—those little orange dots are aphids!