Never seen these before. They are all over the butterfly weed seed pods but sure aren’t butterflies! Also seem to like the pink zinnias nearby. (Baltimore MD)
You have milkweed bug nymphs (youngsters) on your butterfly weed(which is in the milkweed family). They feed by sucking juices out of the plant and since milkweed is not of ‘economic’ value they are not considered a pest. Because this is a nymph it is not easy to know if it is a small or large milkweed bug. It does also resemble the boxelder bug nymph, but since it is feeding milkweed we know it is the milkweed bug. The adults are also reddish orange and black and are very striking in color.
Only special insects can feed on milkweed as the plant contains toxins. These toxins give any insect that feeds on this plant protection from predators. Other insects that might feed on butterfly weed would be monarch caterpillars or milkweed tiger moth caterpillars.
Thanks for the great photo!
The milkweed bugs do not eat monarch eggs…they only feed on the milkweed plant.
Due to severe storms this past winter in Mexico where the monarch butterflies overwinter, there are fewer monarchs around this year.
Here is a great website to learn more about monarchs…what they eat, where they go in winter, etc