Milkweed: plant it and they will come!

In recent years milkweed has received much attention as habitat for dwindling populations of monarch butterflies. Most of the more than 100 species in the Americas are tropical, but one species in particular is a staple of monarchs in the North: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).

My backyard milkweed project started in 2015 with a few transplants from a nonproductive, roadside location. Establishment was slow, but they’re now flourishing. Vegetative reproduction by root sprouts has created a colony of about 30 stems and the large, fragrant flower clusters are insect magnets (according to the US Forest Service, over 450 insects are known to feed on some part of the plant, including flower nectar). I focused on the Lepidoptera, attempting to document the variety of butterflies and moths that benefit from flowering milkweed. Multiple benefits from a single management action is a best-case scenario. The value added from a colony of milkweed is much greater than monarch habitat.

I’ve observed 9 or 10 species of butterflies and moths thus far, as well as countless bees, flies and other insects. This is a sample!

Milkweed9July18#6067E2c8x10

Honeybee

Monarch10July18#6108E2c8x10

Monarch

TigerSwallowtail6July18#5891E2c8x10

Tiger Swallowtail

CabbageWhite10July18#6152E2c8x10

Cabbage White

CtenuchaMothFly13July18#6507E2c5x7

Ctenucha Moth

Fritillary10July18#6082E5c5x7

Fritillary

TigerSwallowtail12July18#6434E2c8x10

Tiger Swallowtail

WhiteAdmiral11July18#6311E3c5x7

White Admiral

Monarch11July18#6336E2c5x7

Monarch

Photos by NB Hunter (early July, 2018). © All rights reserved.

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8 thoughts on “Milkweed: plant it and they will come!

  1. I have yet to figure out what our local milkweed is here in the new neighborhood. I’m hoping to start some local plants to replace the invasive species, but so far I have yet to find anything I recognize as milkweed. We do get quite a few butterflies and bees on the blackberry blossoms. I may have even spotted a White Admiral, but it was moving too fast and erratically to be sure. Your images of these delightful creatures are wonderful (in every sense of the word).

  2. Wow! So many beautiful butterflies came to your milkweed! I also planted milkweed (asclepias tuberosa) around our backyard. It is doing very well and Monarch, Cabbage White, bees, and maybe other butterflies as well have been coming. Pictures on my blog.

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