Last week, we shared a photo on our social media accounts (Facebook and Instagram) of a Monarch Butterfly in our gardens, lamenting they were showing up everywhere *except* for our milkweed (Asclepias)! But just in time for #WildlifeWednesday, we caught sight of a monarch butterfly AND a bee enjoying the milkweed. Loving all these pollinators!
Many people already know that milkweed (and other Asclepias) is important because it's where monarch butterflies lay their eggs. And of course, as shown, it's an important source of food for butterflies and other pollinators.
We talked with our director of horticulture about the relationship between monarch butterflies and milkweed. She said, "I have been reading about milkweed toxins and how the monarch feed on them to then use the toxin for their own defense." She put together a few resources on the subject:
“All milkweeds contain a milky sap which can be seen if the stem or leaf is broken. Within the sap is a toxin, cardiac glycosides, causing poisoning of humans and animals if eaten. Some insects have evolved over time to become adapted to feeding on these toxins, and the insects become poisonous to the predators that eat them. The insects have developed a way to take the toxins from the milkweed while eating the leaves and sap, and use the toxins as a defense mechanism against birds, animals and other insects that want to use them as a food source.” (Source: http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/FactSheets/asclepias-milkweeds.php)
Here are some additional websites she recommends for more information:
She says the following is "A very detailed but excellent resource":
Have you seen monarch butterflies or other pollinators around? Have you planted milkweed or other pollinator friendly plants? We'd love to hear how they're doing!