The Plants the Help Monarchs Also Help Honey Bees

CATCH THE BUZZ  By Candace Fallon   December 15, 2016

Candace Fallon
Senior Conservation Biologist
Endangered Species Program

Monarchs are in decline across North America. With milkweed loss in the east identified as a major contributing factor to this decline, the national call to action has understandably focused primarily on planting milkweeds, which are the required host plants for monarch caterpillars, and a favorite for honey bees, too. Yet while restoring the millions of milkweed plants that have been lost is certainly an important strategy, monarchs need more than milkweed to support them throughout the year. Adult monarchs need nectar to fuel them during spring migration and breeding and to build up stores of fat which sustain them during fall migration and winter.

There are many sources of information about which species of native milkweeds are best for your region, but information on which nectar plants are best for monarchs has not been available for large areas of the U.S. Working with the Monarch Joint Venture and the National Wildlife Federation, the Xerces Society has created a series of nectar plant lists for the continental U.S. based on a database of nearly 24,000 monarch nectaring observations. Each of the 15 regional guides highlights species that are commercially available, are native to and widely found in the region, and are known to be hardy or relatively easy to grow in a garden setting.

Read more about this project at  or find a nectar plant guide for your region here

These plant lists are works-in-progress and benefit from your help. You can submit additional monarch nectaring observations via our online survey. We are grateful to the many different researchers and monarch enthusiasts across the country who have already contributed to our database – thank you! 

Got Milk (Weed) for the Bees?

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    May 29, 2014

Folks are planting milkweed for the monarchs.

The milkweed (genus Asclepias) is the host plant (larval food) for the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). No wonder the monarch is sometimes called "the milkweed butterfly."

The perennial plant is so named for its milky juice, consisting of a latex containing alkaloids and other complex compounds. Carl Linnaeus named the genus for the Greek god of healing, Asciepius.



Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at:

When Monarch Butterflies Skip Meals

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    4/8/14

Got milkweed? 

If not, monarch butterflies are in a heap of trouble. 

An interesting study just published in journal PLOS One by researchers at the University of Jamestown, North Dakota, and the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, revealed that the larvae of monarch butterflies that skip meals (host plant, milkweed) will become adults with a smaller wing size, as much as 2 percent smaller. 

That's important because monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are migratory animals that travel long distances, and without milkweed, Asclepias spp., their migration will be adversely affected.

In their research, “Does Skipping a Meal Matter to a Butterfly's Appearance? Effects of Larval Food Stress on Wing Morphology and Color in Monarch Butterflies,” Haley Johnson of the University of Jamestown and her colleagues also found that monarch larvae deprived of food became adults with a different wing coloration: paler wings. 

This study nails home the point why we need to plant milkweed. As the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation says on its website: “The loss of milkweed plants in the monarch's spring and summer breeding areas across the United States is believed to be a significant factor contributing to the reduced number of monarchs recorded in overwintering sites in California and Mexico. Agricultural intensification, development of rural lands, and the use of mowing and herbicides to control roadside vegetation have all reduced the abundance of milkweeds in the landscape.” 

To address this seed shortage, the Xerces Society launched Project Milkweed to produce new sources of milkweed seed “where seed has not been reliably available: California, the Great Basin, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida."

Bottom line, the Xerces Society is:

  • raising public awareness about milkweeds' value to monarchs and native pollinators
  • promoting the inclusion of milkweeds in habitat restoration efforts
  • developing milkweed seed production guidelines, and
  • building new markets for milkweed seed.

The Xerces website also offers sources of native milkweed seed in your state. 

Meanwhile, the butterflies that overwintered in Mexico are on the move and in Texas. For more information on butterfly migration, see Monarch Butterfly, Journey North.

Read at...

Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: