Great Resources

Useful tools to help you improve the health of your landscape

Milkweed, Monarchs and More

The connection between Monarch Butterflies and milkweed plants has practically become common knowledge with the news of the Monarch facing extinction.  But did you know how robust a milkweed community really is?  The handy book, Milkweed, Monarchs and More, provides an insider’s view of the numerous invertebrate species that are supported in a patch of milkweed.

The trio of authors, Ba Rea, Karen Oberhauser and Michael Quinn, originally penned this small book as a resource for volunteers involved in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. Milkweed, Monarchs and More has expanded its reach to become a field guide for gardeners and nature lovers.  The book has now been published both as pocket-sized guide and as a full-sized paperback with larger type and photos.

The authors explain the food web that is present in milkweed patches and the different roles of each  member of  milkweed community.  Milkweeds are explained in detail, followed by a gallery of milkweed species.  Monarchs are also well covered.  But, while many of us are fixated on monarch caterpillars and their relationship with milkweed, this book explains the important functions of many different invertebrates.

Invertebrates within the community are classified by function: herbivore, herbivore that eats milkweed, nectivore, predator, parasite, decomposer or scavenger or passerby.  Some creatures play multiple roles, such as the Large Milkweed Bug which is: 1) an herbivore, 2) a milkweed herbivore and 3) a nectivore.  Each different function is color coded throughout the book – a very helpful feature.

To keep readers on a scientific path, the authors break the book into insect classes and orders.  An astounding number of insects are described – in a quick count, approximately 100 invertebrates are covered in just over 100 pages!  Some of these species will be familiar to readers, like bumble bees which relish milkweed nectar.  Many species may come as a surprise to those of us not inspecting our milkweed closely enough – soldier beetles which are predators and nectivores, lacewings which are also great predators, blister beetles which are predators, parasites and herbivores, scorpionflies which are predators, nectivores and herbivores, and so on.  Milkweed, Monarchs and More does a wonderful job explaining the incredible insect diversity supported by milkweeds.

The book further expands our horizons by listing species other than Monarchs that use milkweed as a host plant, including the Soldier Butterfly, Milkweed Tiger Moth, Tiger Mimic-Queen Butterfly, Queen Butterfly, Delicate Cycnia Moth, Unexpected Cycnia Moth, and the Pyralid Moth.

Milkweed, Monarchs and More is a wonderful resource not only for lovers of lepidoptera, but for anyone fascinated by the complexities of nature.  Pick up a copy in time for spring.

From Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!