My earlier disappointment has been abated with a summer season Monarch count surpassing any in recent years. The Milkweed stands are receiving frequent visitations from this colorful butterfly.
Monarch larvae are
Milkweed eaters. Recent declines in the
Monarch population make it more important than ever that this plant be readily
Because of a beating they took during a
spring thunderstorm, a few of the plants are unable to maintain an upright
position. Most, however, are standing
tall, even though a few needed some propping up and stem support to achieve
I would agree, especially when the flower
visiting bees during the day or moths at night get sucked into your home every
time you open the door. This Milkweed
thicket was not actually intentional. A
single plant that became established beside the water garden was allowed to
remain. Within a couple of years that
one plant became two dozen. For the
benefit of the Monarchs, I let them remain.
I must admit that I am also fascinated by the vast array of insects
attracted by these plants.
The youngest are just beginning to show their
characteristic black filaments. Small
larvae are easiest to see by looking from below a sunlit leaf.
also be located by examining holes in the leaves. Feeding sites are more regular in appearance
than hail damage left by the early storm.
The sticky sap can make it
difficult for the larva to feed. The
larva overcomes this obstacle by systematically severing the veins leading to
the leaf, this stopping the flow of sap.
On larger leaves, a
series of lateral veins might be cut as seen here.
A section of leaf is consumed and then the larva moves on to another
location. Many predators are attracted to
leaf damage in search of prey. Despite
the Monarch’s unpalatability due to accumulating toxins from the Milkweed plant,
some predators have to learn the lesson first hand to the detriment of the
larva. Even though they are bad to eat,
the best survival strategy is to avoid the predators.
The plants bloomed early and are continuing to produce new flower buds.
I just hope that conditions at
their wintering grounds are favorable for the species continued survival.
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