Milkweed Bugs

This patch of Common Milkweed and other wild plants is one of the most satisfying parts of my garden, despite my neglect of it. The Common Milkweed, whose botanical name is Asclepias syriaca, ┬áis one of those plants that even when cultivated, looks like a weed. I think that’s because some parts of the patch are mature and blooming as others are just sprouting, so it’s never very uniform or tidy. It’s a very hardy perennial that propagates itself as it self-seeds and spreads by underground shoots. My patch is right outside a kitchen window, where its scent blows in when it is in full flower, usually for the whole month of July in my garden.

The view of the milkweed patch out the kitchen window, with my hoophouse in the background.

The view of the milkweed patch out the kitchen window, with my hoop house in the background.

Today is a perfect day to be in the garden because it’s been cool, cloudy and rainy. As I have been looking out the kitchen window lately, I’ve been noticing a clump of what I assumed were box elder bugs congregating on the milkweed pods. Upon further inspection and a bit of internet research, I discovered that these are Large Milkweed Bugs, who are really only interested in eating my milkweed.

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Who says it has to be a flower to be beautiful? I want to cut this stem and display it in a vase!

When I was photographing the milkweed bugs, I noticed that they were not the only species being supported by the milkweed. A pretty little spider, who scampers away when I get too close, was also hanging out. And what she was after was not the milkweed bugs but the lovely orange aphids that milkweed always seems to play host to.

The little golden spider at the tip of the pod is about to snack on some aphids farther down. She's too little to take on those big milkweed bug larvae, however.

The little golden spider at the tip of the pod is about to snack on some aphids farther down. She’s too little to take on those big milkweed bug larvae, however.

I’m not a neat gardener by nature, so I don’t mind the weediness of many of my perennials, nor of my garden in general. And I’m also not one to interfere, so if a deer snacks on something or disease takes over, I figure it’s meant to be. Seeing this little ecosystem on a milkweed pod brings me so much joy, and would not happen if I was doing too much meddling, spraying, trimming and yanking.

Are there places in your own garden that you let nature manage?