As caterpillars, monarchs ingest the parasite on the leaves. I would try cleaning cuttings with water first. I think more people will be willing to listen then and we can all get back to helping save monarchs and their amazing migration. You writing drips with it. Monarch caterpillars are tolerant of these chemicals⁠—in fact, cardenolides are the very compound that protects the monarch from predation. THIS IS NOT THE CASE – WRONG. The “Crown Flower” plant is more popular for raising Monarchs here, but that plant takes more room. But it would also be terrible to pick up an already-pupating caterpillar and remove him from his location of choice and put him back where he started on the milkweed plants. I’m really glad you addressed this. There should be enough leaves left for the caterpillars to munch on in the meantime. In southern California where I live, it is the variety of milkweed that is available at my local native plant nursery. It’s also fast growing and easy to propagate…aren’t these important qualities in a time when loss of habitat is decreasing the milkweed supply? My micro-climate is actually better for the tropical, being warm but somewhat wet (coastal fog) than for the native (heart leaf) that is better up in the mountains where it is hotter and dryer. Having read over this twoyear long thread, I was rather annoyed by the few defenders of science who display a non-scientific attitude. I have yet to hear a convincing argument about why tropical milkweed shouldn’t be grown in annual regions, but it’s certainly a hot-button topic. The Monarchs preferred the tropical and ate it to the bare stems (on over a dozen plants in the ground) before turning to the natives. Just today I cut back to about 12 inches but was reluctant to cut further as I still have at least a 5 or 6 ts on my 8 or 10 plants. Boy was I wrong. I am coming from another angle. Others stagger their cuttings so there will always be some milkweed available in case of an emergency. You can overwinter plants indoors, and you can take stem cuttings now, in the winter or early spring. Milkweed is the poster plant for pollinator gardens. I live in the Antelope Valley in California. I agree 100% with your comments, and I’ve never suggested that planting tropical milkweed in roadside ditches is a viable option. Hello! Could you give me an idea of when Peak Migration occurs here and when I should cut my Tropical Milkweed back to prevent the spread of OE? Evolution has devised its plan over millions of years and we are possibly interrupting it in just a few. You might try swamp milkweed if your region get’s lots of rain…it’s a popular nectar flower and host plant. I am, however, concerned that the largest majority of people are unaware of the risks that come with Tropical Milkweed — because the first year it was growing in my yard, I was! Planting milkweed is the most effective way to help because it is the only plant that sustains a monarch through each of its life stages. A hen could peck it to death. I say go ahead and plant your tropical milkweed, but more importantly work to alter the roadside mowing in your local area to protect existing stands of wild milkweed. Perhaps science doesn’t embellish, but the people asking the scientific questions and interpreting the data do. Media Marketing/Shutterstock A monarch butterfly lands on a swamp milkweed plant. Eradication of milkweed is a threat to the monarch butterfly. Hi Jayne, tropical milkweed may very well be your best performing milkweed in Houston, but milkweed diversification will give you opportunities to cut back your tropical so it doesn’t get covered in OE disease spores. 3. If so any suggestions what to do with eggs and cats on plants and what do I do to get rid of pesticide? I have raised monarchs since 1969. I think our success this year was because of A currvassica. Freaked me out. Recently, after reading on the butterfly garden forum some posts that sounded rather alarmist, I started reading about this issue. [email protected] Quote from WarGames comes to mind: “The only winning move is not to play.”. 3 Big Advantages of Winter Sown Milkweed + Winter Sowing Container ideas, Another monarch migration is on the horizon some of us, Valentine Gift Ideas for a Butterfly Lover, Start or Improve your Monarch Butterfly Garden, Butterfly Garden Book for Monarchs- Instant Download, Top Tools, Supplies, and Resources for Raising Monarch Butterflies, How To Grow Tropical Milkweed Without (Allegedly) Hurting Monarchs,,,,,,,,, Monarch Butterfly Kits to Raise Caterpillars into Butterflies, 25 Milkweed Plant Ideas for North American Butterfly Gardens, Winter Sowing Milkweed Seeds Part 1: Supply Checklist. Eventually the natives were eaten back and have not recovered. Building walls, indeed…. Liriomyza asclepiadis is the specific species of leaf miner that feeds on … While I may grow Mexican milkweed hopefully to serve as host plants during spring migration, I will chop them down by September and continue to remove new growth until the plant freezes. I would make a list of a few options that sound interesting and then talk to local gardeners or nurseries to see what works best for them. Florida where I have swamp if I want to use it. I live in San Antonio Texas and have been growing tropical milkweed in my part sun/part shade garden for several years. I am an avid gardener, have a yard of primarily native plants (am trying to do the right thing for the environment). If there is enough good quality Swamp Milkweed I will use it instead of the tropical variety until after the first instar, and then they are fed almost exclusively on Tropical Milkweed. I knew nothing about how to grow for Monarchs, I always assumed they were doing their thing over there in the sanctuary, so I found some seeds for tropical milkweed online, I bought them and started my garden. Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal) that diapausing migratory monarch populations have thrived for 50-100+ years solely on tropical milkweed alone. Not everyone is going to fall in line with a natives-only solution, so I’m not sure why you’d chose not to educate people on how to deal with these potential issues. Thanks for your story. They often bypass tuberosa for milkweed with more substantial foliage in other parts of the country. Confined habitat can concentrate spores but this still has nothing to do with ASCLEPIAS CURASSAVICA and is caused by confinement or lack of milkweed on the whole. There are many people in this country who like native plants & have them in their landscapes to benefit the insects they have evolved with for thousands of years. As such, milkweed is critical for the survival of monarchs. Still giving it a chance though…. I also treat my plants with hydrogen peroxide which promotes root growth and is supposed to kill disease spores, although I’m unsure if it kills OE. Hi Michael, thank you for your comment. I hope more people are willing to stop giving ultimatums and start discussing viable options. Spraying the plants would be detrimental to the caterpillars. When they emerge from their chrysalises, according to an article in Science magazine, they are covered in OE spores. So what do folks who are into purely native plants want to be called? I am going to attempt to measure and weigh the butterflies to see if there is a difference at least in my very small sample though and if there is I will not plant it again. If you raise indoors, rinsing off milkweed also helps. The goal isn’t to be OE free, but to greatly reduce the number of spores so that your milkweed supply can support healthy butterflies. Danaus erippus, the southern monarch, evolved with tropical milkweed. Please help. please don’t tell me the problems are insecticide or chemical related as that is simply not the case.). I think keeping the tropical around just to extend the milkweed season is akin to keeping the trash can lid open to let the racoons eat. Since then the plants have frozen and our season is over. This gives the impression you’re a mean spirited person with a bad attitude. Prairie Moon Nursery offers several varieties (e.g., A. hirtella, A. stenophylla, A. incarnata, A. tuberosa and A. verticillata) which might grow here. Hi Susan, try staggering your cuttings (cut back half now, the other half a few weeks later). The vast majority made it to eclosion and all of them were large, strong and gorgeous specimens. You don’t need to remove them, but consider cutting them back to the ground in late winter/early spring and fall. OE is spread by the deposition of spores from the butterfly typically attached to the egg not by the plant itself. If you’re going to compare tropical to another milkweed, compare it properly. When you say our tropical milkweed plants should be cut to the ground do you mean that literally or maybe leave 3 or 4 nodes above ground and be certain to remove all leaves? good luck! This is not some miracle plant, however. 2016 Update- with more gardeners planting tropical milkweed, the overwintering population in Mexico grew 3.5 times: from 57 million monarchs…to 200 million! If you’re gardening in USDA hardiness zone 7 and below, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be dealing with overused milkweed or fall-lingering monarchs. I have two questions: 1) I guess these seeds do not need the layering cooling technique described for other varieties?? Hi Debi, I appreciate you posting this. We have a few of those white nylon mesh butterfly habitats (the Caterpillar Castle) and sometimes the milkweed leaves or branches touch the mesh walls of the enclosure and the caterpillars just climb up the branch … and then keep on climbing. Some people just want to focus on problems and worst case scenarios. D. plexippus plexippus has not, which causes problems, mostly during the 1st instar. OR — he could be lost and starving and can’t find his way back to the milkweed leaves. Is this infestation dangerous for the monarchs? Is this your argument? ps My memory might not be right but it seems that we see monarchs months before we get any caterpillars. Eating uncut tropical milkweed takes extra work on the caterpillars part. “Mom knows best!”. I intend to cut all the milkweed back in a couple weeks gathering as many seeds as I can. THE MOST HEARTBREAKING MUTATION WAS PERFECTLY FORMED BUTTERFLIES UNABLE TO FLY, TWO OF WHICH WERE BORN WITHOUT THEIR PROBISCUS IN OTHER WORDS, STARVED TO DEATH. And where would I get those seeds?? You can find them on my milkweed resources Page: Here is a list of potential milkweed species to try in your region: It has been hypothesized that the planting of tropical milkweeds at temperate zone latitudes such as along the California coast could have important health and reproductive physiology consequences for diapausing monarch migratory populations:, However, there is a lot of real world case history evidence (e.g. We still need conclusive data on this issue to understand how the reuse of tropical milkweed is negatively impacting the monarch population. I wonder if it is possible for the drought conditions to add to the OE increase? Now that they have moved on, my plants have re-flowered, and hopefully have been pollinated. We made those mistakes in the past but we are learning now to respect local ecosystems. I have not found that monarchs lay eggs too late on tropical milkweed in Minnesota. Photo by Monika Maeckle They’re endearing, All this said in hopes that anyone in my area who doesn’t know these details will see this and use extreme care with their Tropical Milkweed and the seed pods until such time that the experts: the scientists or … – – until “they” can say definitively that a. Curassavica is safe (or tell us to destroy it completely because it is BAD). Almost every report I receive from gardeners is that tuberosa is one of the worst host plants for monarch eggs. Thank you for providing all this info and the links. We live in the Bay Area of California and launch 20-50 monarchs from our kitchen every year with only two or three that fail to thrive or fail to launch. My experience too – monarchs avoid the northern USA type of tuberosa. It grows fast and aggressively here. You can position a leaf closer to where they are, but I would not move them. You name call people who have presented science, your answer apparently to not being able to present anything in response except your dogmatic determination to do what you like and still try to pretend to have monarchs interest at heart. Thank you. Based on what they read an d replicate from media rather than science, the so-called conservationists took up the cause. My main question is with first frost rapidly approaching, can I take flowering cuttings in the hope of them going to seed while overwintering under my growlights? Keep in mind, monarchs that were tagged in California have been recovered in Mexico, disproving the theory that all western monarchs migrate to coastal California. I have no technical expertise on Monarch’s physiology beyond a basic knowledge Last year was excellent, and during their migration south for a period of several days I had an amazing abundance of dozens of Monarchs feeding on my flowering plants. On my tropical, I raise and release about a hundred Monarch up to October when I cut back. While I think it is a good idea to plant native plants I also see the benefit of the tropical milkweed and cutting them back, but without even cutting them back the Monarchs are gone. In addition to the concerns over OE and disruption of migration behavior, emerging research suggests that tropical milkweed may actually become toxic to monarch caterpillars when the plants are exposed to the warmer temperatures associated with climate change. As of now, I am unable to find native asclepsia californica seeds available, so I have planted asclepia curassavica. Having milkweed that peaks at different times can make a difference in how many monarchs you attract/support through the season. I have been raising Monarchs and hosting eggs, caterpillars, chyrsalises, and big beautiful PERFECT butterflies. It is the latest nectar plant on our property and can withstand light frosts. Hi Terri, thank you for your thoughtful comment. Calling folks names, especially those who could or should be on your side, does not move things in a positive direction. IT WAS THE WORST MISTAKE I HAVE EVER MADE. I was under the impression, since I live in the Houston area, that the only milkweed that does well here is the tropical milkweed. Too many native-only gardeners are trying to push ultimatums that just aren’t necessary. There is no way that the OE spores can be spread to adult monarchs nectaring on tropical milkweed flowers. In Minnesota I’ve seen monarchs, swallowtails, hummingbirds, honey bees, and other small pollinators on ours…it’s even supported tussock moth caterpillars, which I admittedly wasn’t so excited about. We tagged 200. Here’s info about feeding with cuttings: Feeding Caterpillar with Milkweed Stem Cuttings. “The good thing about science is that it says what it means, it doesn’t try to embellish, and the moment better data is available it abandons its old hypothesis.”. It’s frustrating to hear so many people believe that just because a plant has potential issues, means it should be condemned and not even considered as a potential solution for supporting more monarchs. When I read the first sentence, I was bracing for another attack about how non-natives are destroying the environment and not supporting the native ecosystem. People need to work together to save the Monarch. They are (without a doubt) larger than the monarchs I see (or raise) earlier in the season. There is one additional case of a tiny island and apparently non-diapausing population much closer to the USA – the island of Bermuda, 600 mile east of South Carolina out in the Atlantic ocean (about the same latitude as San Diego, Calif.) It is delicious to snails, and doesn’t make it past the seedling stage. They may not be flowering because the seeds germinated late. Since we’re playing seniority cards, I’ll toss in mine. * Provide other flowering species to feed butterflies, from spring through fall. Good luck with your garden! The research is definitely “lite” but makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. I don’t, I have a special patch of fast growing brassicas that I relocate the caterpillars to and still have my cabbage. but then….. The success of science is the long trail of detritus–theories and hypotheses that failed to be true. I feel it was important to leave them be until the first frost to help sustain them on their journey I feel it is more important now than ever to provide waystations for them with the growing popularity of GMO crops in this area that make it easier for farmers to eradicate weeds with herbicides, further diminishing native milkweeds. The long, oblong leaves are light green and grow to about 8 inches long. OE exists even without ASCLEPIAS CURASSAVICA. Catch up on North Texas' vibrant arts and culture community, delivered every Monday. I think that awareness is key and that all of us who love the Monarch would never intentionally hurt it. Hi Linda, there is not an “absolute” right answer to the question. There was no OE epidemic nor any disruption of the annual North-South migration cycles or the winter clustering phenomenons. The hypothesis that planting tropical milkweeds in the USA would cause an OE epidemic or disrupt the migration is hypothetical and not based on actual field evidence within the USA or case history evidence in other parts of the world. Otherwise, they should probably be OK outside too. Thanks Tony G. Great Article and great feedback. And yet I had horrifically deformed butterflies when I fed without disinfecting. As far as I know OE spores are ingested on egg shells and the outside leaves and stalks. At the time I didn’t know there was a controversy about it. There is such a thing as plant diversity and offering choices, more important than any one single plant. Why has this non-native become a staple in so many North American butterfly gardens? Tropical milkweed itself is not “bad.” (It provides larval food for monarchs in many places where it occurs naturally, such as across the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America.) Decision Science, Maryland. Your entire article is filled with hatred & name calling. The cats seem plump and healthy. The stems and leav… Since you are in a continuous growing region, cutting back plants also removes built up OE spores on plants. I always rinse leaves with water before serving to caterpillars just to be on the safe side. I can’t argue that tropical lasting longer than the Common is a benefit if the Monarchs artificially wait around longer. Uninterrupted fall migration is a way for monarchs to leave the contaminated milkweeds behind without infecting future generations. Good luck! You can always cut off seed pods prematurely (and pull existing plants) if it gets to be too much. Hypothesis: ” Fear based science headlines having harmful effect on real world activities of concerned people.” I wonder if there is a Government sponsored grant for this study ? 2016 UPDATE: we still plant tropical milkweed containers, but we only take stem cuttings for raising indoors because they are easier to clean and keep predator-free. I would occasionally see a Monarch but I did not get eggs or cats. I don’t ever have problems with first instar caterpillars, perhaps because I rinse of all my leaves or spray plants/cuttings daily. In some locations it is difficult to improve habitat for monarch butterflies because of the status of milkweed. My point is that I think some native purists aren’t open to discussing options other than tropical milkweed removal. The problem is that sometimes on a busy workweek when you’re running off to work in the morning and you have time to cut and rinse some fresh milkweed for the Hungry Hordes, but you may not have time to get out the bleach and the big stainless steel mixing bowl and rinse everything clean and mix up the 5% solution and do the whole rigarmarole, and then clean up the whole assemblage … so instead of doing nothing, can we just use a strong shower-head needle-spray of cold water and use fingers to wipe off anything that might be on the leaves? For the past 5 years growing tropical  in Minnesota, late egg laying has never been an issue. I should take notes so I can share real info on conditions and effects. But relying on a single type of plant for survival is a risky strategy that has put monarchs in grave danger. Thanks. I love these little creatures, they are so adorable at any stage, I have lost some due to my inexperience, but I thank Tony for his book I bought, I was able to figure out my mistakes and my success rate has vastly increased. We will not be able to work together if we begin the conversation with name calling. The truth is you’re egotist. The Monarchs aren’t finishing their fall migration because viable milkweed is available year-round in the US. We don’t get snow here. If milkweed leaves get infested with bugs or start looking diseased I would cut back those parts of the plant and discard them. We probably won’t have our first freeze until late december, and who knows… it might be a temperate winter, but I just can’t stand the thought of all those potential butterflies freezing to death in their crysalises. Click to see full answer Also question is, which milkweed is bad for monarchs? I have seen at least 10 split green milkweed seedpods. SoCA. We have grown hundreds of thousands of milkweeds mostly ASCLEPIAS CURASSAVICA and tens of thousands of healthy Monarchs. I suspect 20 years from now you’ll still be attacking scientist who make you feel like a murderer for the way you garden, when really all it was attempting to do was give you information. Hi Ethel, after your common milkweed is done blooming you can always cut it back a couple feet and it will put out fresh growth….this should also keep it from falling over. I am very interested in plants that will benefit the Monarch butterflies. Master Gardeners tell us to cut down our milkweed in October – up til now, not for OE, but to encourage migration. I’m making the fourth attempt with seeds kept indoors, and so far, so good. It’s the best variety to support early monarchs. My question is can we get away with just thoroughly rinsing the stems and leaves under a strong cold spray of water from a shower-head spray, and “squeegeeing” each leaf between thumb and forefinger under running water — that should physically (not chemically) remove any OE spores, right? Today monarchs continue to be present on Bermuda despite massive suburban development, decades of inbreeding and decades of being confined to very small amounts of tropical milkweed. It takes multiple plants to provide enough leaves for more than one hungry caterpillar. The failures are widespread and so severe that some scientific journals no longer accept results based on the old standard of p-values. I bought 50 plants. Hi Linda, we grow showy and stiff goldenrod (which monarchs rarely visit), 4 types of sedum, and New York Asters along with many other native plants. Was this because predators somehow knew they were more poisonous? The Tropical does last a longer than the Common but I think that is nature’s way of telling the Monarchs to move on. Thank you for supporting the monarchs…. I definitely have > 95% success but then, I collect the eggs every evening. Now I want to some milkweed. Monarchs favor a variety of milkweeds, and in fact, with variety they’ll lay more eggs. Copyright © 2021 The Dallas Morning News. Evidence for trans-generational medication in nature by Thierry Lefèvre, Lindsay Oliver, Mark D. Hunter & Jacobus C. de Roode, Ecology Letters 13, 1485-1493 (2010). In fact, the monarch butterfly is also known as the “milkweed butterfly.” The milkweed plant provides all the nourishment the monarch needs to transform the Monarch caterpillar into the adult butterfly. Monarchs flooded my garden the day I planted in May. See, that is what I thought – it is a native plant in their home range. I have many native plants & some ornamentals, yet I am tolerant of others who have a belief that is different from mine. disease? Now, during the migration, a constant stream of monarchs and hummingbirds are visiting the flowers on the A. curassavica. As you can see from this map, monarchs migrating from Texas through MX to the overwintering sites and back are going to encounter and have been encountering natural populations of Asclepias curassavica for 100+ years (the white portions of the map represent desert areas that are too dry for currassavica to grow in the wild).