“More Milkweed, More Better.”

“More Milkweed, More Better.”

 

By Rick Mikula (Apr. 2018)

 

The World Wildlife Fund Mexico (please visit https://www.worldwildlife.org) and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (please visit https://www.worldheritagesite.org/list/Monarch+Butterfly+Biosphere+Reserve)  recently announced that the total forest area, occupied by monarch colonies during the 2017-2018 overwintering season, had decreased by 15% since last year. Sad news to be sure but it still does not mean the Monarch butterfly will become endangered or extinct any time soon. The March and April temperatures in Texas this Spring were above normal while the mid-section of the country stayed a bit cold and kept monarchs from continuing northward. This was a good thing because the monarchs were confined to the central corridor in Texas and were surrounded by plenty of waiting milkweed. If they would have kept proceeding northward as they did last year due to the sudden blast of  unusually warm Spring temperatures they would have once again been met with an absence of host plants leaving the females with very few places to deposit eggs. Hopefully this year’s weather conditions will be the right combination of factors and help to build a larger late season population as happened in 2017.

 

Milkweed is the key and planting it is the way to help. Without enough available host plants throughout their range their numbers simply cannot multiply. Caterpillars just have to eat, and eat, and eat. As I have been preaching all along milkweed in the Spring and Summer and nectar plants in the Fall. If you are using the Monarch Migration Station then you are ahead of the game. Your plants will be healthy and tall and make a very welcomed oasis when they arrive. And always remember “More Milkweed, More Better.” Monarchs do have a preference when it comes laying eggs.  According to the USDA in the eastern part of the US Monarchs prefer;

 

  1. Asclepias amplexicaulis
  2. Asclepias arenaria
  3. Asclepias asperula
  4. Asclepias curassavica
  5. Asclepias engelmanniana
  6. Asclepias fascicularis
  7. Asclepias hirtella
  8. Asclepias incarnate
  9. Asclepias latifolia
  10. Asclepias ovalifolia

 

 

It the western part of the country they prefer;

 

  1. Asclepias californica
  2. Asclepias cryptoceras
  3. Asclepias eriocarpa
  4. Asclepias erosa
  5. Asclepias glaucescens
  6. Asclepias linaria
  7. Asclepias oenotheroides
  8. Asclepias subulata
  9. Asclepias subverticillata
  10. Asclepias vestita

 

Now, that is all well and good, but finding those specific varieties at your local garden center will be next to impossible. So let me whittle down the list for you. The easiest to find are Asclepias, curassavica, incarnata, syriaca, fruticosa, and tuberosa. The first four are all very good with curassavica being their favorite and  tuberosa their least. Monarchs aren’t crazy about it and will use it as a last resort. Whatever variety you choose, make sure to ask the supplier if the plant has ever been treated with any systemic insecticides. Systemics can stay inside the plant up to a year and can kill caterpillars during that entire period. Your plant supplier should know if it has been treated or not and don’t be afraid to ask.

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