Posted on

monarch caterpillars prefer to eat the butterfly weed seed pod

The monarch caterpillars consume toxins from the butterfly weed (and other milkweeds), called cardiac glycosides. This toxin is more concentrated in the caterpillar than in the leaves of the plant and is carried forward into the next two stages of metamorphism. Along with their bright warning colors and toxicity, predators have learned to avoid them since birds and other animals that eat them become sick and vomit.

Preferring dry, sunny locations, butterfly weed blooms during June to September and is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9. Unlike other milkweeds, it has alternating leaves and non-milky sap. While it is slow to emerge in the spring, it reaches two or three inches high and about two inches wide. It is a very low-maintenance plant that tolerates drought and is generally not afflicted by insects or diseases. Additionally, deer usually do not eat butterfly weed.

It was so exciting!

Hormones within the caterpillar trigger the next stage of metamorphism and the pupa stage is often referred to as a chrysalis. Caterpillars don’t always remain on the butterfly weed to pupate. They can travel 15 to 20 feet away from the garden to find a location to pupate. After molting for the last time, the caterpillar hangs upside down and silk is produced from a spinneret at the bottom of its head. When encased, this stage lasts eight to 15 days under normal conditions and transformation is completed. Just prior to emerging, the black, orange, and white wing patterns become visible through the chrysalis.

The butterfly weed produces a large taproot that can extend a foot or more into the soil thus propagation by division is difficult but can be done in the fall, or in early spring prior to new growth. Identifying the ideal plant site is important for butterfly weed. As plants mature, they produce additional stems and tend not to transplant well. The taproot is also referred to as pleurisy root due to its prior medicinal use in treating lung inflammation.

See also  how do you germinate weed seeds

Migrating monarchs are particularly vulnerable. Fewer and fewer monarchs survive their southern migration to their wintering sites in central Mexico and California. Widespread use of herbicides that destroy monarch nectar plants such as goldenrod, asters and milkweeds has had a great impact on monarch declines. Pesticide use also contributes to declining numbers of caterpillars and adult butterflies.

Although Asclepias tuberosa is a prairie plant, it’s suitable for several types of gardens: meadows, native gardens, nature reserves, rain gardens, and increasingly in formal to semi-formal gardens. For a striking contrast, I enjoy pairing its orange flowers with lavender (Lavendula spp).

Monarch Caterpillars Eat Two Types of Milkweed Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a showy, bright orange perennial that gardeners usually prefer for their flower beds. But don’t limit yourself to these two common species; there are dozens of milkweed varieties to plant, and monarch caterpillars will munch them all.

As you can see in the photo above, yes the caterpillars will eat the stems, but they will not last long with a hungry Monarch caterpillar. The only plant that the Monarch caterpillar eats is milkweed. Cut a stem and put it in some water and let the caterpillars have a feast.

Do all milkweed plants have pods?

Similarly, what type of milkweed do monarch caterpillars eat?

Also Know, do Monarch caterpillars eat Honeyvine milkweed? The former is frequently cited as an important host plant for larvae of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus L. (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae), while the latter is rarely mentioned in this regard. Our results indicate that both common milkweed and honeyvine milkweed are suitable hosts for monarch larvae.

See also  noxious weed seed definition

All milkweed species develop a seed pod and they look very similar. Refer to the Milkweed Identification blog if you’re not sure how to identify Milkweed.