02 September 2015

Monarch Butterflies and Milkweed

Monarch butterfly caterpillar
By now everyone who reads about gardens, gardening, nature and the environment is planting milkweed and that's a good thing.

Aphids on milkweed
Milkweed brings lots of new friends to our gardens. Here are the ones on our milkweed. First, there is no milkweed without aphids.

I leave them on the plants for their predators to eat and parasitize. Wasps and Lady Beetles and their larvae are ones we most
commonly think of as their predators.
Pirate bugs and Syrphid Fly larvae also eat aphids
Ladybug on milkweed


Then there's the Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar, Euchaetes egle, that eats milkweed leaves. Cute as they are, they are eating Monarch caterpillars' food and I wish they wouldn't.

Tussock Moth Caterpillar

This year we have swamp milkweed, tropical milkweed and balloon milkweed in the garden for Monarch caterpillars. The balloon milkweed is the number one favorite with swamp milkweed coming in second. The tropical milkweed is being largely ignored.

That outcome is fine with me since the other two are infinitely easier to grow in our climate and soil.
Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle

The milkweed flower and leaf eaters include Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle. They spend the winter in Mullein leaves (must be cozy in a nest of those fuzzy leaves) and emerge when there is food available.

Milkweed Bug
Milkweed bugs, on the other hand will show up in several sizes and markings though they are all red and black. What's tricky about these guys is that they suck the juice out of milkweed seeds.

So they are only a serious pest to you and the plant if you want a lot of seeds for next year.

European brown mantis
Then, there are these guys who eat aphids: European mantis or mantids. Well, and they eat a lot of
other stuff, too. Hummingbirds, mice, snakes - all on their menu. Yum.

And, well, they will eat the Monarch butterflies when they come to the milkweed to lay eggs, too. But, they also eat their own small mantis cousins so what can you say?

Monarch butterfly eggs on milkweed leaf
Despite all this activity on one plant this morning, I found more tiny caterpillars and more eggs proving that the other insects aren't getting them all.

You may have to click on the images to see them large enough for your eyes. Feel free to look.

If you use my images, though, please credit me. Thanks.

Update two days later - 6 more eggs laid today.





2 comments:

imsnow said...

I have lemon coral sedum. I have placed a few stem cuttings into the ground. How long do I have to wait until they grow into full plants?

Martha Stoodley said...

Hi imsnow -
I usually place cuttings into damp sterile potting soil rather than in the ground since our weather and ground temperatures are unpredictable at this time of year.
For sedum cuttings, I would mix potting soil with some sand or vermiculite to increase drainage, remove the growth from the bottom two inches and carefully tuck the cutting in.
The container would be kept inside, protected from direct light and would probably make roots in about a month.
I don't know where you are gardening - which zone, etc.
Martha