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Any butterflies use Lonicera Japonica for host plant?

Posted by catherinet z5 (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 21, 10 at 19:05

We didn't realize 30 years ago that the couple of rows of Japanese honeysuckle on our property were extremely invasive. We just thought it was cool that the birds liked the berries so much.
Now.....our property is overwhelmed by these obnoxious bushes. We've given up trying to control them.
Is there a silver lining here anywhere? Do any butterflies use them for their host plant?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Any butterflies use Lonicera Japonica for host plant?

Euphydryas phaeton (Baltimore Checkerspots) will eat it in the spring during their 2-5 instar.

RE: Any butterflies use Lonicera Japonica for host plant?

Oh Catherine, I know exactly how you feel! And why can't the deer eat it instead of my natives??????

RE: Any butterflies use Lonicera Japonica for host plant?

Hi Jeanne,
We have about 33 acres and I'd say the honeysuckle covers about 2/3rds of it. We tried for years to get rid of it (without chemicals), and it just spreads too fast. Its very disheartening. And you're right.......why can't the deer/rabbits/beavers/groundhogs/insects eat it instead of everything native?
I'm trying to accept them and look for the silver lining. So I guess I'll hope for the Baltimore Checkerspots!
I'm hoping we'll find out the leaves cure cancer or something. :)

RE: Any butterflies use Lonicera Japonica for host plant?

I've seen large swallowtails use it for nectar. But, I hate it, too. It strangles things when it really gets going.

RE: Any butterflies use Lonicera Japonica for host plant?

Ditto to swallowtails using the flowers for nectar, also hummingbirds nectar on them. Between the Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese privet, and Japanese climbing fern I have to struggle to keep my property (5 1/2 acres) from looking like Asia. Unfortunately, I've never found any of it eaten by a caterpillar - what a shame!

RE: Any butterflies use Lonicera Japonica for host plant?

Hmmmm......I wonder if non-native invasives aren't used for food sources because the native organisms haven't evolved right along with them in our particular eco-system?
These various invasives from Asia aren't a problem in Asia because they are kept in check by their own specific ecosystem.
I think these invasives do so well here because its a similar temperature zone.........but all the other important checks and balances are missing.
Many times I've thought of naming our property "Invasive Acres".

RE: Any butterflies use Lonicera Japonica for host plant?

There are a lot of reasons that invasives do well here. It is all balance and counterbalance. First, There are a variety of invasive honeysuckles (if you have not used the USDA's PLANT profiles page, I highly recommend it)Japanese honeysuckle is Lonicera japonica and is a vining type. Lonicera maackii, is the Amur honeysuckle and is the horrible bush type taking over our woods. In some cases, it is true that there are no diseases or pests to keep plants in check. However, in California, there are a lot of butterfly species that have adapted to new invasives (,_shapiro_exotics.pdf). This may be true of a lot of our butterflies. After all, fennel, dill, and parsley are not native. Fennel has become a major host plant in the wild for black swallowtails. Several of our species use plantain.

One of the most interesting thing I read recently is how earthworms are altering our ecosystems. Those large worms that we love so much in the garden are actually invasive themselves. We don't have large native worms in most of the northern United states. These eurasian earthworms do what worms do. They drag organic material down into the earth. What is the problem with that? Well, our forests evolved without them. Tree seedlings and other plant seedlings evolved to germinate in the duff layer (decaying plant material like leaves). Enter the worms that remove this duff layer. Now enter asian and european species of plants and trees (Amur honeysuckle and glossy buckthorn)that are used to earthworms. They can get a strong hold much more easily than our native species in this situation. In addition, the worms like calciferous soil and will change the pH of our acidic forest soils to an alkaline one. All bad news for our native plants and hence native insects and animals. So, one suggested strategy for restoration is actually to spray for worms to help alleviate the problem. So, many of the issues with natives vs. non-natives are complex.

We have a never ending invasives battle in our woods because others think honeysuckle makes for such a good screen. It really sucks...


Here is a link that might be useful: The trouble with worms

RE: Any butterflies use Lonicera Japonica for host plant?

Thanks for that info Elisabeth. I guess I made a mistake......its the Amur honeysuckle that we have. I guess we could use all the trunks for firewood! Its such a persevering shrub. You can cut it back and it comes back over and over and over......stronger each time.

I'm thinking that we just have to go with the flow of evolution. But it IS a very complex situation.
Its tempting to think that the way things were, are the way we want them to always be and the way they "should" be. But I guess the earth is always in a state of change. Its hard though when the change seems to be a negative one.........which, in terms of "evolution" isn't good or just is.
We have some honeysuckle shrubs that are about 15-20' tall. I think the original owner of this property got them from the DNR back in the early 70's. I think every single seed from them grows. I fear we've populated our entire county with them.
Another curious thing.......the original owner planted Russian olive too, but it seemed to die out for many, many years. Last year, however it all started coming back again. :(
DH cleared out a section of honeysuckle out back, and for a year or 2, it was beautiful. We could actually see the forest floor. But....once again, its mostly all honeysuckle. :(
I could go on and on about this, but I'll spare you. :)

RE: Any butterflies use Lonicera Japonica for host plant?

Both Hemaris diffinus and Hemaris thysbe could use the Japanese Honeysuckle as a host. I have the Lonicera japonica purpureum as well as Lonicera flava, which is a native to the U.S., and Hemaris diffinus prefers L. flava. I have yet to find any on the Japanese Honeysuckle, but that doesn't mean they don't use it. Most moth sites indicate that they use Honeysuckle species, which would include Lonicera japonica. In my yard where they are offered two species, a non-native and a native, they definitely have shown preference for the native species.


RE: Any butterflies use Lonicera Japonica for host plant?

So sorry Catherine. Sounds very frustrating.
We have Japanese Honeysuckle on our property and even WITH chemicals, it's increasing every year. The vines come up under my shrubs where the birds perch and drop the seeds. I dug out several in my yard this spring, but spotted some Japanese Honeysuckle blooming at the top of one of my viburnums where a vine had snuck in.
Having a row of shrubs for the birds seemed like a wonderful idea but I'm not sure I'm going to be able to keep up with the honeysuckle and other invasives that sprout underneath.

RE: Any butterflies use Lonicera Japonica for host plant?

So you have a ton of Japanese Honeysuckle, amazing fragrant flowers, it 'cares' for itself. You can't seam to kill it... what could you do? I would raise Bees. The most amazing honey I've ever tasted was created primarily from Japanese Honeysuckle. Not only could you potentially sell the honey but honey bees are having some trouble in the world today and give a helping hand to a dying species by establishing a local population would be a good thing. Eventually the bees may start other hives on the property too, you never know. But because of the amount of nectar in the Honeysuckle flowers the bees will have a ton to eat. They would be able to expand fast with such an awesome food supply. If you have a garden in your backyard or black berries on your property - Your thriving bee hive will help pollinate every flower within 5 miles. I'd give it a try before anything else.

I read that goats will also eat honeysuckle, leash them up to cover a small area...they will eat it down to the ground and eventually the Honeysuckle will stop growing.

Chickens will also peck an area until nothing grows. Maybe it's time to start a chicken farm - Fresh eggs and fresh poltury! Turkeys maybes?

If you really must get rid of your Japanese Honeysuckle without having to start a farm, and you don't want to start some bee hives (I'd love to be able to do this myself...still trying to buy property though):


In moderate cold climates, Japanese honeysuckle leaves continue to photosynthesize long after most other plants have lost their leaves. This allows for application of herbicides when many native species are dormant. However, for effective control with herbicides, healthy green leaves must be present at application time and temperatures must be sufficient for plant activity. Several systemic herbicides (e.g., glyphosate and triclopyr) move through the plant to the roots when applied to the leaves or stems and have been used effectively on Japanese honeysuckle.

Following label guidelines, apply a 2.5% rate of glyphosate (e.g., Rodeo� for wetlands; Roundup� for uplands) mixed with water and an appropriate surfactant, to foliage from spring through fall. Alternatively, apply a 2% concentration of triclopyr (e.g., Garlon 3A) plus water to foliage, thoroughly wetting the leaves but not to the point of drip-off. A coarse, low-pressure spray should be used. Repeat applications may be needed. Treatment in the fall, when many non-target plants are going dormant, is best. Also, a 25% glyphosate or triclopyr solution mixed with water can be applied to cut stem surfaces any time of year as long as the ground is not frozen.

Though I would never use roundup myself, that stuff is poisonous and kind of makes the dirt unusable for gardening afterwards.

There is always a silver lining, sometimes you just need a little imagination or creativity.

Good luck

Here is a link that might be useful: From my blog: Japanese Honeysuckle is my favorite fragrant vine!

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