Small Milkweed Bugs

PLease tell me what this bug is and where it’s coming from??
Tue, Dec 9, 2008 at 10:45 AM
Hello, we are purchasing a foreclosure home that has been vacant since May 2008, vacant except for an infestation of these little critters (see picture). They are only outside, seem to be hovering around the overgrown bushes and weeds and living in the gaps of the wood beams. By infestation I mean thousands. They are slow moving and huddle in groups.They are grey/black with red markings and about 3/4 inch long. They don’t appear to fly. If you could please tell me what they are, why they are there and if they are dangerous I would appreciate it.
Karen Wondergem
North Glendale, Arizona

Small Milkweed Bugs
Small Milkweed Bugs

Hi Karen,
These are Small Milkweed Bugs, Lygaeus kalmii, and they are perfectly harmless.  The insect feeds on the pods of Milkweed Plants, and it is possible that the previous owner had a butterfly garden.  It is also possible, though you did not indicate the actual circumstances, that this home is part of a new development that was originally natural open space.  According to Charles Hogue in Insects of the Los Angeles Basin:  “it normally feeds on the pods, stems, and seeds of the milkweed.  As this plant seems to be declining locally in the face of human progress, the insect will no doubt become increasingly rare.”

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