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Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Posted by docmom z5 MI (My Page) on
Fri, Nov 22, 13 at 8:08

We all know the plight of the Monarch Butterfly. I just wanted to share some of the ideas I have flying around in my brain, so maybe someone else can improve on my thoughts, or take them and run with them. Recently, I've been dreaming of a road trip through the Midwest pulling a trailer loaded with a diverse collection of native seedlings. I imagine stopping at every neglected corner or field, and attempting to obtain permission to plant some of my seedlings. If no permission is possible, then I'd just plant one or two inconspicuously. What I'd really love is to find a retired Monarch fan who could spend the month of April and/or May driving around non-stop. Who could say no, if we showed up with a plant and a shovel and offered to do it for free. We could ask for donations, if someone seemed enthusiastic.

What do you think? Anyone else have any great ideas they'd like to share?


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Johnny Apple Seed!! Gotta love that idea:-D

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

DocMom, There is someone who just this year was able to--I think pulling from memory here--either follow them or somehow follow them on their migratory paths.

That was really important information because they they know where and who they would need to communicate with to plant the much needed milkweed.

I will try to find the article.

It's far only 3 million Monarchs have arrived in Mexico.

Here is a link that might be useful: Monarchs didn't come

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Awesome article! I might post that on another site! One problem I can think of with your idea is that seedlings that have been planted need to be taken care of for quite a while until they are able to make it on their own. It would be hard to even get people to to even water them (if they agreed to the planting of seedlings at all). It's not the same as seeds. In my state, many milkweed were wiped out by drought out in the wild. And any plant that does comes up from seeds or is planted will need some rain once in a while. That's limiting even on my own property (away from my yard, where I could water it, that is). I hate to discourage you, however. Maybe just seeds, and a certain percent of the plants that come up would make it?

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Good article, thanks for posting it. It's sad what's happening to our wildlife and landscape. I was thinking of turning my front yard into a native flower garden this coming spring, and now I know I am! I'm waiting for a good rain so I can get a shovel into the concrete-like clay soil we have. I can't get 1/2" into the soil when it's dry.

Martha, I like your idea-it would work if seedlings were planted before a sure-thing rainy period. If no rain, seedlings wouldn't make it, while seeds pick the right place and time. If the owner was enthusiastic and waters their plants, then I'd go with the seedlings.

I hope to see you on the (positive) news coverage...newscaster: "coming up next, how two local women have taken their love for the Monarch butterfly on the road..." Johnnny milkweed seed.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Thought I had posted this yesterday--but here's the article about the scientist's tracking their migration through the generations last year for the first time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tracking Monarchs

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Monarch Watch has done lots of research into the best way to get natives established, and their choice of methods is to use seedlings. Certainly, many of the seedling may not make it, but that's why we choose the varieties that have the best chance of surviving with no care. A. Syriaca, or Common Milkweed, is by far the work horse of the milkweed varieties. It accounts for over 90% of the milkweed used by wild Monarchs. Unfortunately, syriaca seed cannot get established where other plants are already growing, so it needs to be introduced as a seedling. Fortunately, syriaca is very drought tolerant, and doesn't need a bunch of TLC to survive.


RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Martha, I had no idea that seedlings can survive with no care, that's great! I get so little rain, that I've never had a seedling survive without TLC. Little to no rain and heavy clay soil here. No wonder Common Milkweed is the workhorse of milkweed, with that ability. Sounds like my kind of plant!

I did some brainstorming and these are my ideas for the Monarch:

-People need to remove non native milkweed from their yards so that Monarchs will not abandon migration. Non-native milkweed discourages migration. Monarchs who migrate are statistically far healthier and more disease free. Non migrators are more diseased--check the OE map--the So tip of Florida has non migrators and they are 70% OE diseased.

-Has it been looked at to develop a type of milkweed that will not support the OE spore? The OE spore co-evolved with milkweed ONLY as a host and was first seen in the fifties. The OE spore seems to me to be one of the greatest threats, equal to genetically engineered crops to the Monarch. I was wondering if maybe common milkweed could be grafted onto a certain rootstock that would be tolerable to Monarchs but not to OE?

-Eliminating GE crops! Farmers rather than banks should be subsidized to grow non-GE crops and allowing milkweed to grow along roadsides and near crops. This could possibly solve the disappearing bee problem too...roundup in our food possibly, it can't be a good thing. In CA, there was a ballot measure recently defeated that would have required GMO food package labeling, and it was DEFEATED!! Monsanto and its minions spent 40 million to defeat this measure in Ca., Prop. 37.

-Have there been any studies re: the correlation to a change in disease patterns that correlate to the introduction of GE/Roundup foods? Maybe AUTISM? One out of 86 children are born with autism. Now that would get interest...

Here is a link that might be useful: Genetic Engineering and Corporate Control of our Seed Supply

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

OE is less prevalent in the north because all milkweeds die back to roots every year. They grow back without OE spores all over their leaves. The OE returns when the infected insects return to contaminate them. There is probably OE spore in the soil, but it's much less concentrated on the leaves.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

A couple of articles I read said that OE is believed to have coevolved with the Monarch. I assume it may have coevolved with the Queen also. I think it's fine to do research on how to go about cutting down on OE (which of course would take a lot of time and money), but I don't believe OE has much of anything to do with the decrease in Monarch and Queen populations. I believe it would be more useful right now to do something about habitat loss, the more dangerous pesticides and also the GM crops in North America. Of course, we should encourage more safe milkweed planting in North America. Then it would help a lot to look into the situation in the Monarch wintering sites and how loss of habitat can be minimized there. It's the perfect storm leading to the decline of the Monarch and Queen, IMHO.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Habitat restoration and banning pesticides is the primary way to up their numbers, and in a healthy population of Monarchs, OE would be of little concern.
But every individual counts, and developing an OE resistant strain of Milkweed should be investigated, along c reevaluating and changing some of our farming and gardening practices. Plant, Plant, Plant!!
Sterile technique in raising caterpillars can also go a long way in preventing OE.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

When the almighty $$$ winks at planting GE roundup/corn "on millions of acres of land once reserved in a federal program for conservation purposes", nearly wiping out milkweed in Iowa, (quoting from "The year the monarchs didn't Appear" 11/13) I know that the almighty DOLLAR will win out over the preservation of the land, hands down, until there are no more bees left to pollinate crops. Maybe self pollinating crops can be developed?
With the Monarch's migration habitat in Mexico diminished to near nothing, what is the solution?

I agree with Leafhead to "plant, plant, plant!! (milkweed), but plant in "safe" states. I'm done with milkweed growing in So. Ca. I see that I've added more disease to the species by growing milkweed. The non natives milkweeds which grow ALL year in mild climates are keeping disease ridden butterflies breeding all year round. Native milkweed dies back in early winter here. Tropical (non-native to the U.S) lives all year.

I put in 15 hours a day (NO kidding!) for the last three weeks sterilizing milkweed leaves and containers, covering plants at night, ETC. and my first 5 eclosees - emergees - this week all tested POSITIVE for heavy OE infestation and will all have to be euthanized. There are 40 more yet to pupate or emerge who will share the same fate-but I will test them and post the outcome. The ones I released earlier this year, early in the season also looked disease ridden but weren't tested. I realize now that I have an OE breeding ground and have NOT helped the Monarchs. I'll test all the emergees next early-season to see if ANY Monarchs are disease free. If not, I'm going to burn the milkweed to the ground, (as the CA. Indians did for other reasons-it promotes taller growth the following year). I don't have the time or health to do captive breeding.

Planting milkweed IS a good thing in colder states.

85% of Monarchs on the tip of So. Florida, who don't migrate, are OE infected. I think that the Calif. Monarchs who don't migrate would show a similar percentage.

It's the migrators who will save the species, but where can they migrate to? Just brainstorming......Not debating!

A hybrid milkweed that would resist OE while otherwise keeping the same traits of the particular native milkweed, would be ideal since migration may be a thing of the past, and OE is a world-wide problem. Or Monarchs might adapt/evolve, fingers crossed.

Here is a link that might be useful: OE-monarch conservation

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Linda_tx8, you're correct, OE evolved with the butterflies, not the milkweed as I stated. What a mystery, I wonder why the milkweed....

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

So sorry about your Monarchs! I wonder, however, how many states could be truly "safe" for them...maybe only relatively safe. With really dangerous systemic and nonsystemic pesticides, certain GM crops that can wipe out many host plants and nectar plants, droughts, habitat loss from development and such, it's going to be difficult. I do think that there has to be as many host plants as possible. There HAS to be more milkweed. Not just in our landscapes, but also in the wild. We can only do as much as we can do, then hope it helps enough to make a difference.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

darn it, how I wish I could contribute to the mainland monarch population!! I came back from a 2 weeks vacation early November I came back with chrysalides all hanging on my fence, under the bench, flower pot, even deck table, and monarch caterpillars all over the place?? with my crown flower plants nearly stripped off to the roots, how can it be? I wish, I wish I could send them monarchs to you.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Linda, The problem is that there is really no wild anymore. I recently read Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home, and there is a chilling statistic. There is a 1:1 correspondance between habitat loss and species extinction. The U.S. has developed 95-97% of its land, which means very little "wild"out--what's there is small and fragmented. If developed land would incorporate more native plants in its landscapes and use more wildlife friendly practices, things would be better.

Other things we can do is to try to buy our food locally and organic and non-GMO when possible. Reduce gas usage--lands that had been set aside for conservation have now been made into corn fields to produce ethanol.

We also need to reduce climate change. There's a lot that needs to be done. It goes beyond milkweed. It's depressing, but I'm not throwing my hands up. Just keep spreading the word, write letters to local papers, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blog post about Monarchs

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

bernergrrl, thanks for that link to a good article. I'm sad about so many things I see going on, it's hard not to give in to the "what can I do anyway?" mentality. It seems like Montana and Wyoming would have lots of open space for planting milkweed? unless corn is growing there too? I wonder if a new forest could be planted in a U.S. state that might have similarities to the conditions of their ancestral migratory forest in Mexico? Cold, higher elevation, yet protected? Are there any oyamil fir trees growing in the U.S. I wonder?

I spoke to a gal at Monarch Watch in Kansas several days ago. She mentioned that a highway that wasn't even needed is being put in and will destroy the wetlands they were trying to save near the University, so that will likely mean less Monarchs for their studies, since the wetlands were a stopping place for them.

Also she said that they destroy all Monarchs that have OE and disinfect thoroughly everywhere that butterfly was.
I was wondering if OE can be destroyed in the soil in mild winter areas, like mine? I do cut the plants back, but I know this spore can withstand extreme conditions. The late season butterflies I had to euthanize last week were raised on brand new growth from my milkweed which I severely cut back in August to encourage new growth. They were visited by wild Monarchs who are heavily OE infested., that's the big problem. Living in a city where non native milkweed is planted everywhere, I don't stand a chance of raising disease free wild butterflies, but I would encourage those in small towns everywhere to grow native milkweed.

Also, PLEASE spread the word about NOT growing non native milkweed. Please tell the big box stores and nurseries in your area to stop selling non-native MW, and find growers of native milkweed. If there is a demand for it, they will supply it. Most nurserymen I have spoken to have no clue about native vs. non-native MW. Education is greatly needed.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

bernergrrl, those were good points you made about buying local non-GMO food. Also about using less gas, and doing our part to stop climate change. Recycling, buying low emission cars, writing to the local paper, and getting the word out in any way possible.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

For many people, there may be no local non-GMO food available or they can't afford it if there is. And even if there were non-GMO, how would a person even know which food is non-GMO? Unless they grow 100% of their own food themselves, that is. I've read books by Michael Pollan. His efforts to find local foods that weren't tainted in various ways were quite the battle! I don't mean to discourage you. It's just really hard...hope you know that! Tonight I gave most of my native milkweed seeds to a nursery owner that I know. He's trying to grow safe (no pesticides, no Bt, etc.) native milkweed for a group of people involved with a local native plant organization. Some people won't or can't grow it that way themselves...that's reality.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

linda, many states have food labeling laws which require packaging to list any ingredients which are GMO related. Recently here in Calif. we had a GMO food labeling measure on the ballot which was defeated because Monsanto spent 40 million $$ to defeat the measure in CA using FEAR tactics and bold lies--saying that "to label packages with GMO info. would cost the consumer a terrible price....", when reality was that the cost to the consumer would have been about 7 cents a year. Fear tactics in Monsanto's TV commercials which ran every 10 minutes a few weeks prior to election day WON.

If it's "organic" then you can be reasonably sure you're not consuming GMO food. I usually cannot afford organic myself, so I avoid the obvious soy, corn and other GMO foods in general, including their oils, but I know they get into many things such as candy bars.

I buy milk from cows not treated with rBST. It seems to be more about avoiding then choosing. There is a farmer's market locally with much better produce and eggs than the stores have, but we have a moderate winter. If anyone can, having a few chickens, a few milk goats, and growing fruits and veggies and canning the excess, that could help.

I agree that the reality is that many people won't or can't. So we'll all have to live with the consequences, and try to be heard and put the word out. Maybe when things get more dire, people will be more interested or involved.

That was nice of you to give your native milkweed seeds for a native plants project. I'm encouraged that they're interested in such a project. There was a native plants nursery that gave it a brief try in a nearby town, but closed due to lack of business-hard to compete with the mega-stores.

A Monarch was laying eggs in my yard today! December 4th.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

I agree that local non-gmo can be hard to find which is unfortunate, and I bet eventually will be less the case. Market bows to demand.

Everything we do is connected; our food and fuel needs impact the Monarchs and all of the other struggling fellow creatures out there.

Here is a follow-up to my last blog post; it has ten ways to help Monarchs.

I am so happy to know that you all are out there doing what you can for the Monarchs. Let's hope that conditions are very good for them this winter and spring.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ensuring the reign of Monarchs

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Hi again,
Just a thought with the spores in the soil: try to keep soil undisturbed and mulch in order to prevent splashing from the soil onto the plants. The other option is to solarize the area, but then you end up killing all of the other beneficial microorganisms. I don't know how long the spores can survive in/on the soil.

Since you have access to a microscope, maybe you can see if there are spores in the soil?

Maybe also try to rotate the milkweed once you know how long the spores survive? Just some ideas.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

The spores can be dormant for years I've read, and are tolerant of extreme temperatures. I'm going to contact the OE researchers at the Univ of Georgia and/or read up more on OE.Thanks for the input. I was going to look for spores on the newly laid eggs (in December!) and on leaves too.

The microscope for $40 new on Amazon was a joke and is going back--less magnification then a magnifying glass.The vet had some emergencies today so my three Monarchs will have to wait. One is getting so weak. I have calls to various high schools and colleges to use their microscope. It might be a chance to get the Monarch plight some needed attention though-which is a GOOD thing.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

I applaud your efforts; please keep us informed.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

bernergrrl, thanks for posting those links to two very good blogs. They were informative, useful and hopeful. I loved the purple flowered bush. I hope enough people do care enough to do something about the demise of the Monarchs and all insect life. Seems so much is working against the Monarchs at this time.

How to stop Monsanto and Dow? How to stop global warming? What to do about the ancestral migration forest that is increasingly being cut down? And also the problem with OE. I was told that 5 out of 10 wild butterflies that are caught at the Univ of Kansas migrating from the North to Mexico, have OE.

I wonder if people feel that there isn't much they can do against GE foods and global warming (if they believe there is global warming). I feel powerless against these things and have to admit I find it all discouraging. But I still live in a way that is pro-life for all forms of life.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Tom, at the vet's today 1 out of the 3 was declared disease free! I was very surprised, happy. No calls back from the high schools or colleges though to use their microscope. It would sure help, I had 2 eclose today/tonight. One is so spunky, I sure hope it tests clean! Hope the vet hangs in there for me.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

I seemed to remember that a butterfly doesn't have to be 100% free of OE to be okay to release. Am I wrong?
I recently came across this website about an organization that is taking a different path in protecting the Monarchs in Mexico. Reading all this, I realized that it makes sense to do what they are doing! By bringing more of the local people into this project and educating them about reforestation, as well as helping them financially, there will hopefully be less deforestation and more reforestation...which helps the Monarchs also! It's kind of a "teach a man to fish" kind of approach!

Here is a link that might be useful: Forests for Monarchs

This post was edited by linda_tx8 on Sat, Dec 7, 13 at 15:07

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

All the Monarch researchers indicate that they destroy any Monarch that is not OE free, and thoroughly disinfect everywhere that the butterfly was. To release untested Monarchs is a mistake I won't make next year, I know I released diseased Monarchs unknowingly this year which looked fine except for their abdomens. OE has no cure and is highly contagious.The b'fly lives a shorter life and can't migrate. It's sad, but every diseased b'fly negatively impacts the Monarch population. Another cross to bear for the Monarch. :(

Here is a link that might be useful: Monarch Parasites-What is OE?

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

I took 7 more slides into the vet today and all were heavily infested, even though a few are very spunky and healthy looking. Have had several with severely crumpled wings and very weak.

Got a call back today from a local University Professor! and he is being so kind in fitting me in on Monday to view the slides with me. He didn't seem to be aware of the Monarch plight. Very nice.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

GMO crops are killing the monarch. Stop GMO's and they have a chance, same with honey bees.

Also I think a major help woud be to get highway depts in the monarchs path to stop spraying roadsides with herbicides and mowing down the wid flora on roadsides. Especially during monarch breeding times.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

This spring and fall, the weather was at fault. If the weather does not cooperate in the US, Canada, and Mexico all the Milkweed and habitat in the world will not matter.

Live Monarch Video on Testing for OE
You can buy a cheap microscope like this from Live Monarch or from Amazon.

I am no longer on the Monarch Watch Forum, their loss.

I emailed Dr. Sonia Altizer at Project Monarch Health to ask her some questions last year on 6/8/12. I must follow up and get her to update their website. This was her reply about killing Monarchs that have OE.

"OE is a naturally occurring infection that has been in monarch populations for a long time. I don't think we're going to eliminate this parasite from monarchs, but we should be careful about not assisting its spread, either. With that in mind, I'd encourage anyone who collects and rears monarch eggs and larvae to educate themselves about the signs of infection and take measures to prevent unintentional transmission in captivity, because this parasite can spread rapidly among captive-reared monarchs. Carefully sterilizing plastic rearing containers, mesh cages, surfaces that contact adult butterflies is very important for preventing human-assisted OE transmission.

In terms of killing OE-infected adults, my thoughts are that if a person is rearing monarchs in their home and finds that a large portion (over half) are OE-positive, they probably should not release those monarchs into the wild, as chances are that some form of contamination in captivity caused those infections to spread. If, on the other hand, a person catches wild adults that are OE-positive and has no reason to think those were infected in captivity, then I'd encourage them to release those adults back into the wild.

And of course, I'd strongly urge folks not to transport OE-positive butterflies for release into new areas, which would be assisting the spatial spread of the parasite and possibly transferring novel strains into new areas.

On the topic of resistance evolution, we have some results published that show that monarchs *can* harbor genetically-based resistance to OE, BUT the resistance is imperfect AND strain-specific. In other words, a resistant monarch will still get infected, but to a lesser degree, and a butterfly that is resistant to some strains will still be susceptible to others, which makes it difficult in general for resistance to increase at the population-level over time."

With regards to tropical milkweed, please don't stop planting it. Asclepias curassavica (Mexican Milkweed) is native to Mexico. Monarchs lay on it as they go through Mexico in the spring and they lay on it when they migrate in the fall. There are gravid females that lay on any milkweed available when they migrate in the fall. I was still raising Monarchs in November this year and I'm in zone 7A. The Monarchs have been laying late in the fall for ages. I read this in Dr. Urquhart's books on the Monarch Butterfly. This has been one of the strategies of Monarchs to build up their population. Here's a good place to buy it.
Silky Formula Mix (Asclepias curassavica)
Tropicals give Monarchs the milkweed that they need to get that last generation finished. I tuck some under my porch overhang in the fall, just to have some milkweed for that last and final generation.

BUT, if you live in an area that Asclepias curassavica does not die back, please make sure to cut them back periodically so OE doesn't build up on the plants and transfer to other Monarchs that visit your plants to lay eggs and nectar. It only takes one OE spore to multiply to thousands inside of a caterpillar.

Here is a link that might be useful: Butterfly Doctors: Study Finds Monarchs Use Medicinal Plants To Treat Offspring For Disease (Tropical Milkweeds)

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

I included a link to a 2013 paper from the University of Florida titled: "Native Habitats for Monarch Butterflies in South Florida", it is really informative and comprehensive about Monarchs, their migration in No. America and its flyways, and the importance of choosing native plants for the welfare of all other plant, insect and animal life.

Some quoted excerpts from this article:

A Natural Wonder in Jeopardy
The monarch (Danaus plexippus) is one of the most abundant and widely recognized butterflies in the world. Like most butterflies, monarchs are pollinators that play an important ecological role in maintaining biological diversity. But this species also displays a pattern of behavior that is unique among all insects........Even though the monarch is not threatened as a species, its migration�"one of the world's great natural wonders�"is considered an "endangered natural phenomenon."

In addition to repopulating the continent, the long-distance migration serves to keep the monarch population genetically healthy and relatively disease-free. However, the migration is now threatened by environmental factors such as global warming, habitat loss at the wintering sites, the loss of milkweed plants along the migration route, and an increase in naturalized tropical milkweeds in mild climates. The result could be the replacement of large migratory populations with smaller, less healthy remnant populations that stay in one location and breed year-round.

Florida Monarchs
Because of the warm climate and continuous availability of host plants, much of Florida's monarch population stays in the state year-round and breeds continuously throughout the year. Year-round residents are more common in southern Florida, as cold winter temperatures in northern Florida can kill monarchs at any life stage.

According to Dr. Karen Oberhauser, Florida is a terminal destination for migrating monarchs from the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. She posits that these monarchs fly into Florida but don't disperse out, making the Florida population a "sink population." In southern Florida in particular, the warm climate likely stimulates monarchs' reproductive behavior, which upsets hormonal balance and causes them to lose their ability to migrate north...

It is also possible that Florida is a stopover for migrating monarchs on their way to the Mexican wintering grounds . Migration from Florida to Mexico remains largely hypothetical...

Loss of Milkweeds = Loss of Monarchs
A butterfly's range depends more on the availability of host plants for larvae than on nectar plants for adults, so protecting larval hosts is a higher priority for butterfly conservation than is protecting the nectar plants that appear in many butterfly gardens. The monarch's larval host plant is the milkweed (genus Asclepias), of which there are more than 100 species across North America.

Milkweeds grow most abundantly in disturbed habitats such as agricultural landscapes and along roadsides, but they are in decline for several reasons. Urban and suburban development is eliminating monarch habitat by supplanting agricultural landscapes where an estimated 90% of milkweeds occur. The increasing use of herbicides in agriculture is also leading to milkweed loss. The widespread use of genetically modified crops, such as herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans, exacerbates the problem because it enables growers to indiscriminately spray their fields with herbicides rather than tilling to control weeds. The organization Monarch Watch estimates that the adoption of genetically modified crops has led to the loss of more than 80 million acres of monarch habitat. Along roadsides, the ubiquitous use of herbicides and frequent mowing are also killing milkweeds and hence eliminating vital monarch habitat.

There may not be enough milkweed habitats left to sustain monarch populations at earlier levels. While year-to-year counts of monarchs vary widely, the World Wildlife Fund-Mexico has detected a downward trend in size of the Mexico winter colonies since the mid-1990s. In addition to loss of milkweeds throughout North America, illegal logging of forests on the Mexican wintering grounds is a major threat to the population.

Creating Monarch Habitat in South Florida
There are 21 native milkweed species in Florida and eight native species in south Florida. While some of these species may not be quite as showy as (the non-native) A. curassavica, they work perfectly well as monarch attractants. Gardeners should rest assured that monarchs are well adapted to consuming these native species.
One apparently obvious solution to the loss of monarch habitat is to plant more milkweeds. Indeed, we can protect our monarch population by compensating for the loss of habitat, but how we create these habitats is important.

Butterflies depend on particular microhabitats�"small areas within an ecosystem that have specific conditions and resources, such as vegetational structure, microclimate, moisture, and presence/absence of other animals (predators or competitors). Such close attention to particulars is especially important when creating habitat for non-migratory butterflies (like many monarchs in south Florida), which tend to spend their lives in a very small area and thus have more specific habitat requirements than migrants.

To develop appropriate habitats for monarchs, we need to move beyond thinking only about particular host species toward a focus on planting native communities. Backyard butterfly garden programs usually do not encourage gardeners to consider nearby plant communities (forests, prairies, or parks) when choosing plants for their gardens. Such programs often promote homogenous plantings and tend to focus on species that have beautiful flowers, attract butterflies, bloom year-round, and require little attention. This often means that they promote nonnative, potentially invasive plant species. In fact, one of the most frequently recommended plants for monarch gardens is an exotic species, scarlet milkweed (Asclepias curassavica, also known as tropical milkweed or bloodflower).

The Threat of Nonnative Milkweeds

Scarlet milkweed is native to South America but has become a naturalized weed in tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world. Whereas most other milkweeds do not grow aggressively, scarlet milkweed has been found to be self-compatible (individual plants can seed themselves) which enables it to spread more effectively. This species establishes itself most readily in dry, sandy, disturbed areas, but also grows in mucky soils in swamps (such as Coconut Creek Maple Swamp in Broward County, Florida. It has become invasive�"meaning it aggressively takes over habitat of native species�"on many Pacific Islands (e.g., Galápagos, Fiji, Society Islands, Hawaii) and in some Pacific Rim countries (e.g., Australia, China, Malaysia). In the continental U.S. it is established in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, and some coastal areas of southern California......"

I live 30 minutes inland from the Ca. coast, but I believe that the overwintering population of California monarchs is moving increasingly inland, and is reaching where I live (zone 10) because I see diseased wild butterflies in my yard, even days ago laying eggs.

Since my area is becoming non-migratory, and additionally with migration being in jeopardy, this attention to detail in creating 'microhabitats' for the Monarch may be relevant here and everywhere, not just in So. Florida.

It's of concern that tropical (scarlet) milkweed has become a naturalized weed, and invasive in overtaking native microhabitats here and worldwide. In my area, tropical or scarlet milkweed is planted everywhere as a trendy landscaping plant. I may stop growing milkweed altogether until I move out of "the city", since I've seen OE infected monarchs all season. I suspect diseased butterflies are the norm here. Tropical milkweed is sold at all nurseries and big box stores here. Nurserymen usually don't know the difference between native and non-native milkweed or of the consequences of planting it.
Sorry this is long, I tried to pare down what I quoted, I pared poorly (pickled peppers too)

Here is a link that might be useful: Native Habitats for Monarch Butterflies in South Florida

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

This is what I wrote Dr. Lincoln Brower on 8/28/13:

"As long as the people in the south cut back the tropical, I see nothing wrong with it. It gives the Monarchs more protection because it is more toxic than common, swamp, and many of the other milkweeds. Also, it stays viable longer in the fall. With the population crashing we need to help that last generation. And, tropical milkweed is originally from their mother country (Mexico). Aren't Monarchs originally from Mexico and come to the US and Canada to breed? What are your thoughts on this?

My thoughts are that if tropical milkweed is growing in Mexico and the Monarchs still migrate from Mexico and to Mexico then planting tropical milkweed is not going to stop them from migrating. But, I would highly recommend growing it from seeds and not buying it [due to pesticides].

Asclepias curassavica
Distributional range:


Northern Mexico: Mexico - Baja Sur, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas
Southern Mexico: Mexico - Campeche, Chiapas, Colima, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacan, Morelos, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Veracruz, Yucatan
Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda; Bahamas; Barbados; Bermuda; Cayman Islands; Cuba; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Guadeloupe; Haiti; Jamaica; Martinique; Montserrat;Netherlands Antilles - Saba; Puerto
Rico; St. Vincent and Grenadines; Virgin Islands (British); Virgin Islands (U.S.)
Mesoamerica: Belize; Costa Rica; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Nicaragua; Panama
Northern South America: French Guiana; Guyana; Suriname; Venezuela
Brazil: Brazil
Western South America: Bolivia; Colombia; Ecuador; Peru
Southern South America: Argentina; Chile [n.]; Paraguay"

There are plant records that show that tropical milkweed has been found in Florida since the 1940s. Also records that go back to the 1860s that show tropical milkweed in the Caribbean and it being used by Monarchs.

I plant many native milkweeds, but I also plant tropical ones too. Monarchs need milkweed. But, they also need good weather and good habitat that includes nectar plants during the breeding season and trees and shrubs to roost in during migration.

Here is a link that might be useful: Asclepias curassavica native range

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

From what I read, A. currassavica is native to South America, not Mexico. I don't think Monarchs are native to Mexico, they just migrated to it, probably for a good reason that we don't know, maybe to ensure that the stronger ones lived and the diseased ones died?

The "new resident populations which are related to Tropical milkweed" because tropical hasn't died back when the natives would have, "are likely to be heavily infected with parasites" is true for me in zone 10. Your being in Zone 7, it may die back so this part may not be a problem for you. If the non natives create a prolonged breeding cycle or new overwintering site, you can be sure there is more disease in those insects,even if it doesn't show with the naked eye.

Please test them next year, and see if they are disease free, it might change your mind about tropical. If the migrators need an extra boost to migrate, that could be supplied by planting extra native nectar plants, not extra breeding plants.

A knowledgeable gardener in a warm climate such as the south, may cut Tropical back at the correct time of the year, but the million seeds that the plants generated are now growing in neighbor's yards, in vacant lots, behind abandoned buildings, along the railroad tracks, up and down inaccessible cliffs, etc, won't get cut back. Those plants will send off millions of seeds the following season, and the species is now naturalized, and is now invasive, because it's dominating over the natives, and eliminating the natives, which became natives for a reason--they worked the best with the climate, soil, and b'flies, surrounding plants and insects. They all adapted together for a reason, and need one another.

Having to euthanize so many butterflies who were eager to fly into the sunshine and life, was something I'll never forget.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

I am so sorry about your butterflies--a heartbreaking image--I won't forget them either. :(

I am wondering if an OE free population is even possible in the places where Monarchs stay year round?

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs,

I have been participating in Project Monarch Health by testing wild Monarchs for OE and submitting data for 3 years now.

I posted the native distribution of Asclepias currassavica, it is native to areas in Northern and Southern Mexico.

NORTHERN AMERICA (see link below to verify this information)
Northern Mexico: Mexico - Baja Sur, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas
Southern Mexico: Mexico - Campeche, Chiapas, Colima, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacan, Morelos, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Veracruz, Yucatan

Monarchs use this plant on their way North from Mexico to the US and Canada in the Spring and on their way South in the Fall into Mexico as they travel to the reserve. A friend who lives in Michoacan, Mexico (state where the Monarch reserves are located) confirmed this for me. He had Monarch caterpillars on the tropical in early November.

At this point, I'd say that people will have to make a personal choice as to whether to use it. I will use it along with the many other native milkweed species that I have in my yard because I have learned that tropical has medicinal value for Monarchs.

Here is the video again on why Monarch mothers choose tropical milkweed for the health of their offspring:

Butterfly Doctors: Study Finds Monarchs Use Medicinal Plants To Treat Offspring For Disease

Jaap de Roode, the biologist in this video is part of "Project Monarch Health"

Watch the video to learn more about the medicinal values of tropical milkweed otherwise known as Mexican Milkweed.

Here is a link that might be useful: USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) Native Range for Asclepias currassavica

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

I have read the articles online about the medicinal value of the highly toxic Tropical milkweed. Altizer says that the subject "needs more study"--because Tropical milkweed increases OE prevalence in warm climates by stopping migration.

What I posted from Florida U regarding the need to plant native milkweeds in Florida details very specific harm Tropical milkweed is doing-- becoming naturalized everywhere, and invasive in several states, by choking out the natives, throwing off the entire echosystem-or "microhabitat". It's also highly toxic to cattle, goats, etc. whereas many natives are not.

I looked up the link posted regarding the "distribution range " of Tropical, the link doesn't say "native range" it says "distributation range", it isn't native to those areas, it's naturalized to those areas. It's native to a specific Tropical location, hence the name Tropical. The above link is a repeat of the other one, after a second click it's the same page, and reads "Distribution Range", not "Native Range" as stated again. It has become invasive in many other tropical and sub-tropical locations/countries. Northern Mexico is hardly tropical-but the milkweed will grow there when planted. It was found there in the 40's as mentioned because it was planted there as a non native. And 10 to 20 years later the parasitic OE spore co-evolved exclusively with the Monarchs, having never existed before.

What was quoted as Sonia Altizer having sent via personal email in 2012, is in conflict to anything I've read that she has ever written or any researcher/expert has written.
What I see all experts agree on: NEVER release diseased butterflies. All say that OE is very prevalent in the late months of the season--the OE spores are on the plants and on the eggs, left from wild heavily diseased butterflies. It is not introduced and passed along in the rearing process. It's really impossible in a non lab setting without paid employees! to de-contaminate all eggs and leaves that are brought in from outside. The source of OE came from the eggs and leaves, not from within the rearing environment.

I'm posted a different link in this reply, from the Florida Association of Native Nurseries regarding the danger of planting non-native milkweeds, including Tropical.

I can't debate the subject, after this post I will be done talking about Tropical milkweed and euthanizing butterflies. I'm replying because some things being said in several prior posts would be harmful to the Monarch population--such as releasing infected butterflies, which is never advocated. I checked extensively what Altizer has written, I also read every research paper linked on her site, and there is no suggestion anywhere of releasing diseased butterflies, on the contrary, euthanizing is the only option.

I have a group of newly emerged, OE positive butterflies to euthanize daily. Am very relieved that there are just 6 more to eclose. I won't be growing milkweed next year, because this area has become a non migrating OE breeding ground. Tropical milkweed planted everywhere, sold everywhere, and no native milkweed to be found anywhere.

On forums, there is mis-information too. It's necessary to check what the researchers and experts say from reliable locations.
My computer is picking up malware from some links on here-just wanted to warn people to run anti malware after clicking on links. If it looks crudely typed, be extra careful.

Here is a link that might be useful: Save Our Monarchs-Plant Native Milkweed

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Thanks bernergrrl for not forgetting my butterflies too. It was quite a learning lesson that I won't ever forget. I don't think an OE free population is at all possible in non migrators. I noticed on Altizer's (UGA) chart of OE infected populations in the U.S, the percentage of infected butterflies has increased from 70% to 85% in the southern tip of Florida. Older sites say 70%, but has been updated to 85%. So it appears to be getting worse there.
She has no information on her site beyond 2011, no statistics or graphs or articles beyond 2011. I wonder if her lab is still studying monarchs and OE.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Tropical aka Mexican Milkweed does not stop migration. If it did the Monarchs would not migrate back to the US from Mexico where the tropical (Mexican) milkweed is a native.

There are many strains of OE, some are more lethal than others. Some Monarchs are resistant to some of the OE strains. There is still so much more research that needs to be done to understand this protozoan.

OE builds up over the summer to fall. Even in Northern VA there is more OE in the fall. In my area, all the plants are killed back by freezing temperatures. In areas where milkweed does not die back, I highly recommend cutting it back to get rid of OE spores.

Project Monarch Health has not finished processing the results from the 2012 samples. I need to send in my 2013 samples. Please email your name and address to to participate in the 2014 sampling.
Project Monarch Health OE Results from 2006 to 2011

Florida and California, plus many of the states along the gulf coast have Monarchs that could be considered resident populations. Recently, Monarchs have been found to winter over on an island off the coast of South Carolina, too. Many gulf coast states have resident and migrants that spend the winter in the same areas. Even Florida gets a influx of migrants in the winter. Some of these migrants spend the winter there and then head north in the spring. Migrant and resident Monarchs are also found in AZ.

Have you joined the Western Monarch Discussion Group? Many discussion groups can be found here:
Butterfly Digest Discussion Groups



Distributional Range of Asclepias currassavica

In the link that I posted earlier, under the category of distribution there are native and naturalized locations. Mexico is listed as a native location. Distribution in that website meant where it is located. Native or naturalized (introduced, reseeds).

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

I got sucked into the "monarchs using tropical milkweed to self-medicate" craze when the research came out. That is why I planted tropical milkweed in the first place. Then I witnessed tropical milkweed causing monarchs to stop at my house instead of migrating. Then I saw "annual" tropical milkweed coming back every year. Then I finally paid attention to what the "medicinal value" of tropical milkweed really was. It is no cure. It just allows monarchs to tolerate OE better than if they ate milkweed with lower amounts of cardenolides. Why do I want to help infected monarchs live longer, thus helping them to spread OE?

Good to see Mona posting more again.


RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Since this is brainstorming, I will give you some information to think about.

One of the strategies of Monarchs during their southward movement (migration) is to lay eggs to build up their population. Whether those offspring survive has a lot to do with the weather. In my area native swamp milkweed and some of the common milkweed does stay viable until early October. The Cynanchum laeve (Sand Vine [Blue Vine] Milkweed) stays viable even longer in the fall and is used by Monarchs. This is not new, it has been going on for ages. Gravid (pregnant) females are pushed south by the cold. Some Monarchs become gravid during the migration and will lay part of their complement of eggs during that push south. If the female Monarchs has not finished laying her complement of eggs by the time she reaches the reserve or wherever she is spending the winter then she will stop laying eggs and remain in diapause until the spring. "The Monarch Butterfly", Dr. Fred Urquhart, Chapter 12, Migration, page 313-315, "Ovary Development":

Let's say that everyone in the United States gets rid of their tropical milkweed. How about the native tropical milkweed in Mexico? Monarchs do make it to the reserve with OE infections and are also laying eggs while migrating through Mexico.
Monarch butterfly migration and parasite transmission in eastern North America
Look at Fig. 4 on 348 for levels of OE infections for Monarchs wintering over in Mexico.

Again, I repeat, please don't kill wild monarchs that have naturally occurring OE infections. I have asked Dr. Altizer if she could update her website with this information. This message was posted to Monarch Watch on 8/26/12:
"---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Sonia Altizer
Date: Sun, Aug 26, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Subject: Re: [DPLEX-L:49794] Re: Captured about 170 yesterday
To: Mona Miller

Hi Mona

Thanks for sending the note around. OE is a common and naturally occurring parasite, but it is still important to make sure that we monarch enthusiasts don't unintentionally increase prevalence in the wild.

What I might do with OE-infected monarchs is to release them if they are likely to be a natural infection, but do not release/freeze otherwise. For example:
If the monarch was wild-caught as an adult, then treat this as a natural infection and release back to the wild.
If the monarch was collected as a late instar larva from outdoors and reared indoors, then treat as a natural infection and release.
If the monarch was purchased from a grower or obtained from eggs laid in captivity, then freeze any OE infected individuals.
If the monarch was collected as an egg or early-instar larva and reared indoors, and if materials were not carefully sterilized prior to rearing, then freeze any OE infected individuals. On our webpage we have suggestions for how to rear monarchs to limit the unintentional transmission of OE."

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

A caterpillar which eats one OE spore on it's eggshell can emerge as a butterfly with 100,000 OE spores. Why would anyone release a diseased butterfly? The diseased butterfly will expose thousands of other butterflies to a death sentence, but not before they infect thousands of others themselves. Helping the Monarchs, or harming the monarch population?

Link included to Wikipedia, it states that Asclepias curassavica is native to Central and South America. All other government of agricultural sites I found refer to it as native to South America.

*Tropical Milkweed has several names, but not "Mexican Milkweed", it's sometimes called "Mexican Butterfly Weed".

Because of it's presence in cold climates into October, it has kept butterflies longer in areas that they would have left earlier, when OE is at it's peak. It's believed that this is what has contributed to the growing contamination and spread worldwide of OE in Monarchs and Queens. I think the Tropical non native species has greatly harmed the monarch, and may have been the factor which contributed to or enabled the co-evolution of OE with the monarch beginning in the 1960's.

Any milkweed which changes natural monarch behavior from behavior associated with it's native milkweed is destructive for the monarch--as history has revealed. Every monarch research site mentions this and stresses using "native milkweed".

Here is a link that might be useful: Asclepias currassavica on Wikipedia

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

The site that I posted was a USDA website, which is 100% more accurate than wikipedia. I posted it below again. There are tons of common names on the USDA website. And, information for native and naturalized locations that list Northern and Southern Mexico as native location. That's a fact for Asclepias curassavica.

Why would you release a wild naturally occurring OE ridden Monarch? Because it is a natural infection and not one that you created. Because a renown scientist, Dr. Sonia Altizer, gave me those instructions. I have asked her to update the website. I do not want people killing Monarchs that don't need to be killed especially with the population so low and in decline.

At one time, this was posted to the Monarch Watch Forum:

"---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Sonia Altizer
Date: Sun, Aug 26, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Subject: Re: [DPLEX-L:49794] Re: Captured about 170 yesterday
To: Mona Miller

Hi Mona

Thanks for sending the note around. OE is a common and naturally occurring parasite, but it is still important to make sure that we monarch enthusiasts don't unintentionally increase prevalence in the wild.

What I might do with OE-infected monarchs is to release them if they are likely to be a natural infection, but do not release/freeze otherwise. For example:
If the monarch was wild-caught as an adult, then treat this as a natural infection and release back to the wild.

If the monarch was collected as a late instar larva from outdoors and reared indoors, then treat as a natural infection and release.

If the monarch was purchased from a grower or obtained from eggs laid in captivity, then freeze any OE infected individuals.

If the monarch was collected as an egg or early-instar larva and reared indoors, and if materials were not carefully sterilized prior to rearing, then freeze any OE infected individuals.

On our webpage we have suggestions for how to rear monarchs to limit the unintentional transmission of OE.

All the best, Sonia"

Did you email her? She is an amazing person and very helpful, if you have a question.

On the main Project Monarch Health website, click on "About US" and then Click on her name. That will give you her email address.

Here is a link that might be useful: United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) Asclepias curassavica,

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

I just noticed that the linked USDA website also mentions this about tropical milkweed's range:
"exact native range in Americas obscure"

The link below has other quotes from Lincoln Brower on tropical milkweed.

Here is a link that might be useful: Non-Native Milkweeds - Helpful or Harmful?

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Americas = North, Central, South
Obscure = not well known [my guess is that it could be in other areas, but has not been well documented].

This is information on Asclepias curassavica from the link below that I found on that same USDA website under references:

Distribution in Mexico [historical records of a native plant]
Is registered in Aguascalientes, Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacan [state where the Monarch reserves are located], Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Yucatán (Villaseñor and Espinosa, 1998).
Immigration status in Mexico

I found immigration status funny. It is native to Mexico. Some Monarchs also travel north out of Mexico on the West Coast to winter over in CA.

So, Monarchs are using native tropical milkweed in Mexico in the spring and fall to reproduce as they travel to and from the United States and Canada.

It is considered naturalized [introduced and not considered native] in these areas in the United States:
Southeastern U.S.A.: United States - Florida, Louisiana
South-Central U.S.A.: United States - Texas
North-Central Pacific: United States - Hawaii

Here is a link that might be useful: Vibrans, H., ed. Malezas (Weeds) de México (on-line resource).

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

I have lots of the tropical milkweed here in Central Florida and the monarchs do well with it. I still have monarchs and will continue to have them until/unless we get a freeze. If the freeze isn't too bad some still survive.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs


Thanks for caring for Monarchs we need every one that can survive and all the milkweed whether exotic or native to keep them going. With so much land being taken out for farming and construction, the amount of milkweed being planted will not keep up with the need.

If you click on the state on the US map on the USDA website, you can see what counties that it has been identified growing. Not many in CA, a lot in Florida, but it has been in FL for 70 years.

Here is a link that might be useful: USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Services Asclepias curassavica L. bloodflower

North America, Wikipedia

North America is a continent, see the website below for a map of North America. Mexico is in North America.

Information on Wikipedia is submitted by volunteers and also edited by volunteers. The information on Wikipedia is not always correct.

Here is a link that might be useful: Map of North America

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Every scientific source states that Asclepias curassavica, aka Tropical milkweed, as being native to South America. The "native to Mexico" information posted on this thread 4 times or more by same poster is WRONG.

The USDA site linked in an above post, the one where "Research" is NOT in the link title, shows the following:

Native Status of Asclepias curassavica: 'I' means introduced
PR I Puerto Vico -- introduced
L48 I Lower 48 -- introduced
VI I Virgin Islands--introduced
HI I Hawaii --introduced

The USDA map doesn't cover Mexico at ALL, so why post it repeatedly? It's not a North American Dept of Agriculture map, there is no North American Dept Agriculture map--does Mexico have a MDA map? I can find NO Mexican govt. site for native plants, none.

The list posted of "distributed-native" locations four times is taken from the USDA GRIN site (genetic research of plants) and is not from a USDA Native Plants of No.America site, where Mexico is ALWAYS excluded.

The information on the USDA GRIN page shows "Distribution", then immediately below the word Distribution, "native" which is technically a contradiction. There is a tiny "n" next to South America on the GRIN list, the last location on the list (which is typed four times on this thread) from the GRIN site, where Tropical MW is shown to be native to Puerto Rico as well, but is shown as INTRODUCED to Puerto Rico on the USDA link in blue a few posts above, both USDA links provided by the same poster. A mistake was made on the USDA GRIN (a Research) site, the only place I find on the internet stating that Tropical is "native/distributed" in No. America. Some Tropical milkweed selling sites say "Tropical is native" also, for obvious reasons, but they are not being truthful.

The reference used for the "native" status of Tropical mw on the USDA GRIN site is not substantiated-the Mexican source referenced on GRIN for this data refers to the "Missouri Native Plants of North America". I searched Asclepias curassavica on the Missouri site for No. American Native plants, and it did not come up. No mention of Tropical milkweed as native to North America anywhere on the internet that I can find except on this GRIN site, which has wrong data about other countries as well.

Yes indeed, I knew that Mexico is the southernmost part of the No. American continent :) That's why I posted several times that "Tropical milkweed is native to South America" each time it was again posted (in this thread) that "Tropical milkweed is native to Mexico".Tropical mw is NOT native to North America, which includes Mexico.

Troubling also is the co-mingling of 2 distinctly different terms in the posts which I think is misleading. "Distribution Range" and "Native Range" are being used interchangeably in the posts and on the GRIN site- the source of the 4X's typed list.

Please post some scientific sources or from renown Monarch experts in the U.S. which corroborate your insistence that Asclepias curassavica--Tropical milkweed is native to Mexico.

The USDA link in blue given a few posts above states that Tropical milkweed was INTRODUCED to areas SOUTH of Mexico. (It moved in a Northerly direction--from So. America, north to Central America and the islands to the east of C.America, then north to Mexico).

Tropical milkweed is NOT NATIVE to North America.

Informative article linked below with statements from many renown Monarch authorities.

Here is a link that might be useful: All Aflutter-The Flap over the MaIl Order Butterfly Industry

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

What is a "Native" plant? Apparently there are many definitions of 'Native".

"Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens" gives a good definition of the term "Native plant":
"The Federal Native Plant Conservation Committee proposes the following definition: “A native plant species is one that occurs naturally in a particular habitat, ecosystem, or region of the United States and its Territories or Possessions, without direct or indirect human actions" and "the best definitions" the writer felt "are those that recognize the significance of co-evolution, habitats and ecosystems." Also, "In North America, 1492 is commonly used as the cut-off date" for native plants (when native habitat was changed by Europeans).

At Florida Univ. EDIS site (Wildlife and Ecology) "The Threat of Nonnative Milkweeds" the following is stated:

"Scarlet milkweed is native to South America but has become a naturalized weed in tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world. Whereas most other milkweeds do not grow aggressively, scarlet milkweed has been found to be self-compatible (individual plants can seed themselves) which enables it to spread more effectively.This species establishes itself most readily in dry, sandy, disturbed areas, but also grows in mucky soils in swamps Broward County, Florida... It has become invasive meaning it aggressively takes over habitat of native species on many Pacific Islands (e.g., Galápagos, Fiji, Society Islands, Hawaii) and in some Pacific Rim countries (e.g., Australia, China, Malaysia). In the continental U.S. it is established in Florida, Georgia, So. Carolina, Tenn., Louisiana, Tx, and some coastal areas of so. Calif".

QUOTING from a reply post above of Dec11, "This is what I wrote Dr. Lincoln Brower on 8/28/13: " and just the questions asked Dr. Brower were posted. The questions were advocating the growing of Tropical milkweed-as long as it gets cut back, some other ?'s and the poster's opinions, also asking what he thought? Did he reply?

Dr. Brower's thoughts regarding growing Tropical milkweed ARE published. See the link a few posts above called "Non-Native Milkweeds-Helpful or Harmful?". In this link Dr. Brower (Research Professor of Biology at Sweet Briar College) says:
"My advice is that because it" (Asclepias physocarpais) "is a non-native plant and because monarchs that feed on it will
carry different chemical fingerprints from those reared on native milkweeds, and because it may possibly act as a physiological trap for monarchs during the fall and spring migrations I advise against encouraging its use as a monarch garden food plant". Also Brower says

"I also am against planting Asclepias curassavica (Mexican Butterfly weed, Blood-flower, Scarlet milkweed, Tropical milkweed) out of its range. Sonia Altizer who is a prominent monarch biologist at the University of Georgia agrees with most of my points if not all. She is especially concerned re curassavica potentially enhancing the "Oe" protozoan parasite infection.”end of quotes by Dr. Brower, Dr. Altizer.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Regarding Releasing Diseased Monarchs-

The "email from Altizer" posted here four different times as Altizer's answers to the poster's questions, I have wondered each time I see this "email reply", what were the questions? And especially, in what context were the questions asked? Was it in the context of commercial butterfly breeding and the sending and releasing of butterflies to other parts of the country?

Posted on Dec 16, 13 at 22:37, quoting :

"Why would you release a wild naturally occurring OE ridden Monarch?" "Because it is a natural infection and not one that you created. Because a renown scientist, Dr. Sonia Altizer, gave me those instructions....." end of poster's quote.//

Advocating for release of diseased Monarchs? Why promote endlessly the planting of Tropical milkweed when every expert stresses the importance of planting only NATIVE milkweeds, and all agree on the negative consequences of growing Tropical milkweed especially?

Troubling also is the use of "naturally occurring" and also in the same sentence as 'releasing". HIV is naturally occurring too. Cancer is naturally occurring. Does that mean these diseases should be ignored as well? Human disease is researched to find out what caused the unnatural condition, there are reasons for disease. Disease is UNnatural.

OE co-evolved with monarchs in the 1960's, after milkweeds had existed for many millions of years, and Monarchs had existed for how many years, a million? without OE. I would bet that mankind's messing around with nature has everything to do with this unnatural disease. Naturally occurring disease-what is the inference? That it is normal and part of nature?

The following is what Dr. Sonia Altizer says in the published online article (I have linked below) about butterfly releasing:

“If people are releasing infected monarchs in the spring [the height of the wedding season],” Altizer says, “when they’re naturally re-colonizing what would be otherwise clean breeding habitat, we could be ratcheting prevalence up artificially in the wild.”

In 2007, Dr. Karen Oberhauser, a professor at the Univ. of Minnesota Dept. of Ecology and a monarch researcher, stopped the selling and sending of butterflies to classrooms in the U.S. because of the high prevalence of OE. I respect that she took this unpopular decision and faced the backlash from the Butterfly Breeders Assoc. (IBBA).

The link below has a lot of useful information and quotes statements and opinions from various Monarch experts throughout the country including Altizer

Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch is quoted in the article: ..." that there are many unanswered questions and that under no conditions should diseased monarchs be released into the wild." He also questioned years ago in a newsletter the genetic impact of monarch release out of their native habitat. These very questions have led to calls for a moratorium on butterfly releases."

By the way, in the "email", there was no releasing option for my scenario: Indoor reared eggs and very young instars from the wild, using very thorough disinfecting measures of their food, in handling, and of any container.

Altizer says in the article I linked below, that "a caterpillar with one spore can emerge with a MILLION spores". She is against the releasing of diseased butterflies.

OE screening can't be done with the naked eye. Most of my Dec. 2013 Monarchs emerged beautiful and vibrant, but only 2 tested OE free. Most were heavily infested with OE, appearances are deceptive. A microscope is needed.

I noticed also that many of my December emergees had large fore-wings as I've seen in photos of Eastern Monarchs, unlike the smaller fore-wings of Western Monarchs. The infected ones I didn't release, out of love for the species, it was hard.

It's one thing to have a lot of knowledge on a subject. It's another thing to have love that goes along with the knowledge. Just as in religion, knowledge without love is dangerous and worthless. There is also deliberate misuse of and distortion of knowledge-that's the worst.

My apologies to Martha. This was supposed to be a positive ideas thread to help the Monarch plight. It turned into a Tropical Milkweed Promotion and anti-euthanizing of diseased Monarchs thread and debate. I couldn't rest easy with false and misleading things being posted THAT had potential to harm the monarch population.Yes I got sucked in, but not for my pleasure, ego, or wallet, but out of true concern and love for monarchs.

Here is a link that might be useful: All Aflutter--The Flap Over the Mail Order Butterfly Industry

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Why aren't you asking Dr. Altizer these questions?

Why debate tropical milkweed when Monarchs are using it in Mexico? Would you ask Mexico to get rid of a native plant? Frankly, the science is still out on whether it is a problem. I see the major problem as a huge loss of milkweed if people stop planting the tropical since tropical even in non native areas has been there for over 150 years. That based on the history of OE was before OE was identified as a problem.

I am not a commercial butterfly breeder, but this past May a butterfly breeder sent 1,700 diseased caterpillars to my county.

Queens also get OE. I wanted to let you know that in case you raise them.

Many of us don't rear Monarchs year round and many of us don't have tropicals year round. Many of us also don't have to deal with high OE levels.

I see your arguments as making people feel guilty for planting tropicals and contributing to further decline of milkweed levels by insisting that it causes problems for everyone.

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

I am really confused at this point. But I will say that it seems to me with what Dr. Lincoln Brower stated in the link that KC shared, it seems that it's best to plant milkweed that's native to one's region. There are lots of options.

One of the points he touched upon was one I just learned about from this article:

Just this year a researcher doggedly followed the Monarchs and was able to detect that Monarchs show a chemical marker that is associated with the milkweed. This chemical marker in the milkweed varies from region to region. So even if A. incarnata grows in many places across the eastern U.S., the plants here in IL will be different from plants in NH.

My question would be if a Monarch develops on A. curassivica in S. Illiniois, its chemical markers would not help researchers be able to know exactly the paths they take if there is exactly a path.

Their hope is that if there is a general standard route, then they would know what areas to concentrate habitat restoration. That to me seems really, really important.

Why would we want to potentially mess that up? With this new knowledge it seems to me that planting milkweed that's native is a safer bet.

From Dr. Brower in the link below: "My advice is that because it is a non-native plant and because monarchs that
feed on it will carry different chemical fingerprints from those reared on native milkweeds, and because it may possibly act as a physiological trap for monarchs during the fall and spring migrations. I advise against encouraging its
use as a monarch garden food plant."

It's really confusing when the experts can't agree! But to play it safe, I'll just plant native milkweed. And I am sure other people can look at the pros and cons and decide on their own what's best for their garden and situation.

The discussion has made me do a lot of thinking. Thanks!

Here is a link that might be useful: Native milkweeds better choice

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

I didn't see where there was a disagreement among the experts, maybe I missed it. I'm going to stick with native milkweed as the experts advise, and am staying with native nectar plants too. I'm planning native flower gardens for the spring and have removed the lawns.

'Mexican Whorled Milkweed' is the common name for the most prevalent native Californian milkweed: A. fascicularis. It's native to most of California and it's range extends south into Northern parts of Mexico and Baja California.

Below is a link for A. fascicularis, 'Mexican whorled milkweed'-in the link are nice pictures of the flower, and a close-up of the milkweed adult and younguns, which look like red-orange aphids. The milkweed bugs eat the seeds, and I really went after them this season, it was a battle for the seeds and I won! :) Daily squishing by hand (ugh said the kids) but I think those milkweed bugs could be used for some kind of natural insecticide since they're toxic-interesting medicinal smell when squished.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mexican Milkweed

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

Just saw this earlier on PBS News Hour:

Here is a link that might be useful: Why fewer monarch butterflies are surviving their winter migration to Mexico

RE: Brainstorming for the Monarchs

  • Posted by four 9B (near 9a) (My Page) on
    Sun, Dec 29, 13 at 19:28

> immediately below the word Distribution, "native" which is technically a contradiction.

No contradiction. Distribution means locations.
Distribution is the topic of that section.
Native appropriately labels the subsection that details native distribution.
Naturalized distribution appropriately is in separate subsection.

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