If the adage holds true, then if you eat poison, you are poison.
Small milkweed bugs eat mainly milkweed plants whose sap contains poisons and latex. Decorating yourself with bright colours lets potential “diners” know they best choose another item on the menu if they don’t want to get sick.
The bug’s colours are quite distinctive — the white spots on the black wing tips caught my attention first. Sort of like eye sockets in a skull. Also noticeable is the orangey-red “X” on its back that doesn’t quite meet in the middle.
I found this bug sleeping on a globemallow leaf one cool morning recently. Nearby was a rambling milkweed plant, leafless and flowerless, its numerous thin stems twisted around each other like a rope. Little shelter for a bug overnight so perhaps that’s why it climbed onto something more substantial.
Milkweed bugs are true bugs (not beetles) with piercing/sucking mouthparts. Milkweed sap contains latex (a whitish gum-like goo) and poisons. The bug pierces the “skin” of the plants to reach the poisonous sap. Once it removes its mouthparts, the latex oozes into the hole where it dries, effectively sealing the hole. Such a tidy eater.
Small milkweed bug (aka Seed bug) Lygaeus kalmii
Globemallow Sphaeralcea spp.