A female Monarch deposits 300 to 500 eggs during her lifetime. We knew the rate of survival for Monarch eggs in nature was low, as low as 10 percent, but recently I learned it is actually closer to 5 percent.
Why is the rate of survival so low? Mostly, because a tiny egg or tiny caterpillar is a food for an insect. But I have always been curious as to what insects exactly?
Female Monarch curling her abdomen to deposit an egg.
Michigan State University phd entomology student Andrew Myers was determined to find out. He noticed much of the predation happened after nightfall. He camped out for three nights monitoring milkweed plants to discover who exactly were the culprits. The night time predators were earwigs, harvestmen, ants, tree crickets, and spiders. The daytime munchers included stinkbugs, plant bugs, mites, jumping spiders, and milkweed bugs.
Tip for raising Monarchs – When you see a female ovipositing eggs in the garden, wait until she has completely finished depositing her clutch and then head out immediately and snip the leaves and stems with the eggs. If you wait even an hour, many will have already been eaten.
We had a terrible problem with earwigs this summer. They ate every one of our Cecropia Moth eggs and newly emerged caterpillars, despite the fact that the tops of the glass terrariums are covered with several layers of cheesecloth and a fine mesh screen. The pesky creatures can slither into anywhere! Next year, all eggs and newborns are living in the house until they become too big to be an earwig or stinkbug meal!
Note the two eggs above – pinhead-sized eggs are a yummy meal for hungry insects
Earwig and Stinkbug bug photos courtesy wikicommons media
An excerpt from my forthcoming film, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, shows three of the wildflowers found in our gardens, meadows, and marshes that attracts Monarchs, along with myriad species of other pollinators.
Plant the two milkweeds listed below and you, too, will have Monarchs mating in your garden!
Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) that supports southward migrating Monarchs.
Marsh Milkweed (Ascleipias incarnata), one of the milkweeds most readily used by ovipositing female Monarchs.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). A study published last year that shows Common Milkweed is THE milkweed for Monarchs!
Ninety-nine thank yous to Nancy Lutts of Salem who responded to my plea for Monarch butterfly eggs. She follows both my blog and Good Morning Gloucester and emailed immediately after reading the posts. Nancy has the most amazing farm and fields located along the Danvers River. She and her family have been farming the land for decades. Nancy invited me to come and collect eggs. She had come to one of my lectures, but you hardly get to actually know people at the programs so it was a delight to meet her and super fun to peruse her fields for eggs while chatting and sharing butterfly info.
Interestingly, Nancy’s plow wasn’t working as well as usual, so the mowing of her fields, which usually takes place in early summer, happened later than usual. Good thing! The two-inch tall emerging milkweed shoots were the female’s preference. This goes to a topic that is often brought up in the lectures that I give and one of the most frequently asked questions, “What is the best time of year to plow my fields?” I recommend plowing in early fall, well after the monarchs have emerged from their chrysalides and headed to Mexico. Although, the very, very best practice for the pollinators is to mow half a field annually, alternating from one side of the field to the other every other year. This allows for the pollinators to complete their life cycle within a two year time frame. The single greatest threat to Monarchs, as well as all bees and butterflies, is habitat destruction in the United States, whether it be from Monsanto’s Roundup or from mismanagement and loss of fields and meadows.
Nancy has a truly fabulous butterfly and hummingbird garden that I’ll be back to photograph on a sunnier day.
Thank you to everyone participating in the Cape Ann Milkweed Project!
Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Common Milkweed ~ Good Harbor Beach
Milkweed may not be for everyone’s garden; even if you did not order plants, you are welcome to come on down to the dock Saturday morning, the 18th of May, and learn more about the Monarch-milkweed connection. The plants are being shipped on Monday the 13th and I will keep you updated on their progress.
Tonight I am placing the order for the milkweed plants. Please get your orders in.
Thank you, thank you to Everyone participating in our Cape Ann Milkweed Project!!!
Newly Emerged Monarch Butterflies. I called these two butterflies the” Twins,” because they completed every stage of their life cycle within moments of each other, including pupating and emerging from their chrysalides.
Everyone who wrote in yesterday and placed an order has been recorded. Anyone interested in ordering either Common or Marsh Milkweed today, please place your order in the comment section of this post or yesterday’s post, which explains the project, and includes all details. Don’t forget to specify whether you are interested in Common or Marsh Milkweed and how many plants you would like.
Thank you so much to everyone who is participating. Keep the orders coming!
Monarch Caterpillars Feeding on Milkweed in the Summer…
In March I shared an article about bringing back the Monarch Butterflies. Great interest in planting milkweed was expressed by many. The way to bring as many Monarchs as possible to our region is to help recreate the butterfly’s habitat in our own gardens. The number one way to do this is by planting native wildflowers, milkweed for the summer caterpillars, and asters and goldenrod for the fall migrants. Number two is to make a commitment not to use pesticides, which will indiscriminately kill all the creatures that your milkweed plants invite to your garden.
Monarch Eggs on Common Milkweed ~ see the tiny yellow pinhead-sized dots on the top of the upper leaves of the milkweed plants (click to view larger)
Milkweed is the only food plant of the Monarch caterpillar and the flower is a fantastic source of nectar for myriad species of bees and butterflies.
So many readers wrote in requesting milkweed plants that my friend Joey from Good Morning Gloucester blog has very generously offered his place of business—Captain Joe and Sons—as our go-to-place for picking up plants!! It’s going to be a super fun morning–stop by with your coffee, visit, learn about milkweed and Monarchs, and pick up your order.
Please place your order today or tomorrow. I am not pre-collecting the money and am fronting the funds to purchase plants. I don’t want to have dozens of homeless plants, so I am asking everyone to please be on the honor system.
We are ordering two types of milkweed. The cost is 7.00 per plant, which will come in a 3.5 inch square pot. The plants are on the smallish side however, that is the ideal size for shipping and transplanting milkweed. I am writing instructions for planting and they will be provided at the time of purchase.
Monarch Caterpillars J-Shape on Common Milkweed Getting Ready to Turn into a Chrysalis
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is the milkweed we see most typically growing in our dunes, meadows, roadsides, and fields. It grows quickly and spreads vigorously by underground runners. This is a great plant if you have an area of your garden that you want to devote entirely to milkweed. It prefers full sun, will tolerate some shade, and will grow in nearly any type of soil. The flowers are dusty mauve pink and have a wonderful honey-hay sweet scent.
Marsh Milkweed (Aclepias incarnata) is more commonly found in marshy areas, but it grows beautifully in gardens. It does not care for dry conditions. These plants are very well-behaved and are more clump forming, rather than spreading by underground roots. The flowers are typically a brighter pink than Common Milkweed.
Monarchs deposit their eggs readily on both types of milkweed and in my garden I grow Common Milweed and Marsh Milkweed side-by-side.
The cost of the plants includes shipping from Missouri. Hopefully everyone will be good and if they place an order, will honor their commitment. If there is any money beyond what was spent on plants and shipping we will donate it to the ongoing fundraising drive for the Rocky Neck Cultural Center purchase of the beautiful center on Wonson Street.
Plant pick-up is at Captain Joe and Sons, 95 East Main Street, Gloucester, on Saturday, May 18th from 9:00am to 12noon. If you cannot pick up your plants at that time, please ask a friend.
My order to the nursery is being placed on Tuesday night, so please get your orders in asap. Place Your Milkweed Order in the comment section of this post. Be sure to indicate which type of milkweed, Common or Marsh, and number of plants.
Our deepest thanks to everyone who is participating.
Female and Male Monarch Butterfly on Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Rain date pick up: Sunday, May 19th from 9am to 12noon.