Is your Milkweed native?

The Atlanta Botanical Garden hosts Science Cafe, a series of informal science based talks that encourage the public to engage with speakers on important topics. This years series focuses on pollinators and their conservation, and highlights several important pollinator related projects and the researchers behind them.

Today we are highlighting Dr Jaret Daniels  an Associate Professor of Entomology at the University of Florida  who spoke at the Gardens on Monarch butterfly conservation. Monarch butterflies are some of the most iconic species of butterfly in North America, primarily because of their enigmatic coloring and their fascinating migratory patterns. However due to declining habitat, numbers of Monarchs have been decreasing.

In his presentation, along with outlining  overall habitat decline, Daniels pointed out one of the other threats to Monarch butterflies is non-native milkweed. Daniel informed the audience that planting tropical milkweed could cause populations of Monarchs to persist longer into the cooler months, causing them to freeze in a cold Atlanta winter, rather than migrating south for overwintering in warmer climates.

Instead native milkweed species such as Asclepias tuberosa and Asclepias incarnata are excellent caterpillar host plants, and nectar plants for adult butterflies. These types of milkweed provide forage and nesting for Monarchs, and are encouraged in plantings of pollinator gardens.

Additionally Daniels encourages gardeners to vet local milkweed sources, and be sure your native milkweed is pesticide free. This is because some systemic pesticides can remain in the plant, and be transferred to Monarch caterpillars and adults.

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Monarchs overwinter at El Rosario Monarch Sanctuary. Flickr: Heather Spaulding

 

Daniels talk fostered a clearer understanding of the biology and conservation issues related to one of North America’s most famous pollinators. For more information on Dr. Jaret Daniels research and scientific lepidopterian interests you can visit his academic page here.

 

 

Co-blogged by GAPP + Jataysia Daniels, Greening Youth Foundation & Atlanta Botanical Garden Conservation Intern!