A Milkweed Mystery

So… maybe there is a bit of science teacher left in me – or at least the naturalist in me is re-emerging, especially when supported by photography tools and the likes of google.

I’ll explain – but first let me offer a kind recommendation not to look at the following pictures while eating lunch;).

As I’ve become more and more interested in the little monarch caterpillars who have taken up residence here at my house I’ve been out searching for milkweed in order to feed them.  Yesterday I discovered that a few undeveloped lots in my community are just covered with milkweed.  In thinking about the fact that these lots will likely be built on over the next year, if not the next few months… I realize that those fields of milkweed will be cut down and plowed over.

So I started to think about the seeds and whether they could be harvested from those particular “doomed” plants.  After all, I’m going to need more milkweed in my own yard next year.

I watched a youtube video which showed the harvesting of seeds and it looked pretty easy – so while I was out this morning I grabbed a seed pod that looked ready.  I also grabbed one that looked, perhaps, a little “newer” because I wanted to be able to compare a mature seed to immature ones.

I started by breaking open the first seedpod and sure enough – easy, and lots of beautiful brown seeds.

Then I cut open the second one and while I found a few seeds that were brown and a few that were whitish… it looked very, very different…

Instead of fluffy white cottony looking filaments there was brown gunk … and lots of these little larva of some sort.  See the short wiggly looking creature?  Maggot maybe??


So… Not what I was expecting… but certainly curious!

I set out to search google and so far haven’t found any pictures that are similar to concretely identify these little wiggly critters.

My first guess was, perhaps, the milkweed bug??  But I didn’t find anything that looked like this.

So… I’m hoping to crowdsource naturalist curiosity!  Does anyone recognize this?  Anyone know what this is?  Is it a milkweed bug, a maggot, or some other type of insect?

Inquiring minds want to know!

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Gwen - September 9, 2014 - 4:27 pm

There have been little holes in some of my seed pods where critters have entered. I don’t bother opening them, I just toss them as I assume they are compromised. I have seen aphids destroy pods but as far as I know, they don’t morph into what’s in yours … sorry I’m not more help …

Catina - September 9, 2014 - 4:31 pm

Thanks… I’ll have to look up aphid larva… still haven’t found a photo that’s similar… so curious!

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