Monarch/Milkweed question

Anne Kilmer viceroy at
Sun Oct 22 16:31:23 EDT 2000


Randy Morgan wrote:
> > What you might try is planting some milkweed seedlings in other parts of
> > your garden, and see whether that makes a difference.
> > You are, of course, planting larval hosts for many other species of
> > butterflies. Are they, also, declining your hospitality?
> Have never seen any other caterpillars but Monarchs.  Have seen other types
> of butterflies, just no other caterpillars.
This sounds as if you have a lot of nectar plants, and are only
providing larval hosts for the milkweed butterflies. You might increase
the action in your butterfly garden by planting host plants for the
other local butterflies. 
Your local cooperative extension service can give you lists of plants
easy to find and grow. 
These would include legumes for the yellow butterflies, brassicas
(mustards and cabbages) for the whites, and plenty of passion vines for
the zebra longwings and gulf fritillaries. 
The resultant success would distract you from the temporary failure of
your milkweeds to produce. 
A reason for planting a  number of little milkweed patches rather than
one big one is that some of them may escape predation. Are the milkweeds
growing well and full of attractive new growth? Pruning them sometimes
The milkweed you and I grow is Aesclepias curassavica, the scarlet
milkweed. Any milkweed, however, will manipulate its toxin content
depending on predation. Toxins are expensive. 
People farther north are more likely to be growing butterfly weed, A.
tuberosa, whose toxin content is negligible. This means that it doesn't
protect the butterflies as well, too. 
The predatory insects that may be gobbling your eggs and larvae are also
working for the other plants in your garden, eating pests and keeping
the plants healthy. Of course you wouldn't use pesticides on them. Just
outwit them. 
A simple spray of water will remove many of the aphids from the
milkweed, if you think the plants look depressed and unhealthy. Monarch
mothers are pretty choosy. They seek out young, healthy, well-grown
plants if they can. 

I apologize to those of you who already know all this stuff ... Randy's
server says it never heard of him. 
Happy gardening
Anne Kilmer
south Florida


   For subscription and related information about LEPS-L visit: 

More information about the Leps-l mailing list