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Happenings in the insect world
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by Greta Lacin
on November 6, 2021 at 8:00 AM
Yes, it is sad to find eggs in a compost pile. But to me, it is far sadder to see a Monarch emerge from its chrysalis, with crumpled wings that will never unfold, a Monarch that will never fly, due to infection with O.E. Our Western Monarchs evolved over eons to feed on local milkweed species, and any wish that they will adapt more quickly, it seems to me, is just that, a wish.
by Bonnie M Bradt
on November 6, 2021 at 10:42 AM
I, too, have seen and read of the damage that OE can do to the migratory and non-migeatory (Florida?) populations of this beautiful insect that we all care about. I've also seen the well-meaning damage that even caring humans can do to an ecosystem that they interfere with in the process of trying to HELP. I have to agree with Greta. But I will follow every word of the respected research studies from Oregon State University, UC Davis and elsewhere. And I will never raise another monarch in captivity, assuming I know better than Mom nature. She's the boss.
by Beverly Risse
on November 6, 2021 at 12:12 PM
I have tropical milkweed which I've cut back and removed leaves. I'm attempting native milkweed but Wollypod (from seed) seems to grow SO SLOW, and the other one I have is going dormant, which I hope is its natural course. I'd so like to see native milkweed readily available and at a reasonable cost.
by Mona Miller
on November 6, 2021 at 8:13 PM
Benefits of Tropical Milkweeds and  
Managing OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) on Native and Non-Native Milkweeds  
 
Remember, all milkweeds collect OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) spores. Plants don't make their own OE spores. Monarch adults visiting the plants drop the spores on to the plants. OE is more prevalent in the fall. There are evergreen milkweeds in southern states in late fall and winter that also collect OE spores. Please don't bash tropical milkweeds. It is a native to Mexico and Central Mexico, where it is used year round. Tropical is also used by migrating Monarchs in the spring and fall. Monarchs migrating through Mexico in the spring and fall lay eggs on tropical milkweeds. I wonder if their offspring continue the journey north.  
"Tropical Milkweed and the injurious effects of well-meaning people" by Jeffrey Glassberg, President of the North American Butterfly Association  
http://nababutterfly.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Tropical-Milkweed.pdf  
 
Frankly pulling out tropical milkweed when Monarchs need milkweed is absolutely insane. Milkweed can be sprayed with water to wash off OE spores. All milkweeds should be washed prior to feeding to Monarch caterpillars. Tropical milkweeds don't have hairy leaves to catch and hold spores. Or you can cut it back and allow it to regrow. Cutting back is best done by only cutting back one third of your plants at one time that way you will still have milkweed available when Monarchs need it. Do not cut back milkweed, if there are eggs or caterpillars present because this will deprive them of food. Once cut back cover with garden cloth (Information on using Light Weight Garden Fabric https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/row-covers/5111.html to allow it to regrow.) If left uncovered, Monarchs will still visit and lay on stem of milkweed.  
 
Cutting back tropical is not recommended in south Florida where there are residential non-migratory monarch populations. See information on the south Florida group about not cutting back tropical south of Orlando: https://nickiebodv.blogspot.com/2015/03/welcome.html  
 
Cutting back tropical milkweed in late fall to winter in some areas gets rid of any OE spores and promotes new clean growth. It isn't the plant causing the OE, it is the butterflies that have the OE dropping the spores on the plants. Those OE spores can also drop on nectar and other milkweed host plants. Research has shown that Monarchs that eat tropical are more resistant to OE.  
"Patterns of Host-Parasite Adaptation in Three Populations of Monarch Butterflies Infected with a Naturally Occurring Protozoan Disease: Virulence, Resistance, and Tolerance" http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/673442#mobileBookmark  
 
It has also been shown that parents eating tropical gain a resistance to OE and their offspring are even more resistant. Monarchs that eat tropical also produce less tachinid flies. And, are more noxious to predators due to the higher level of toxins in tropical milkweed.  
"Trans?generational parasite protection associated with paternal diet"  
https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1365-2656.12289  
 
Plant natives, but don't give tropical milkweed a bad rap. I find that tropical and african milkweeds are very medicinal for Monarchs. They actually prefer them. If given a choice between natives and tropicals, Monarchs usually choose the more toxic tropical varieties. They will usually lay on swamp over common. Swamp is more toxic. They will usually choose common over butterfly weed. Common is more toxic. “How butterflies self-medicate” https://www.ted.com/talks/jaap_de_roode_how_butterflies_self_medicate/transcript?language=en#t-17545  
 
First identified in the 1960s, this is the first research that was published on  
“Ophryocystis elektroscirrha sp. n., a Neogregarine Pathogen of the Monarch Butterfly Danaus plexippus (L.) and the Florida Queen Butterfly D. gilippus berenice Cramer”  
R. E. McLAUGHLIN and JUDITH MYERS  
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Judith-Myers-3/publication/229980142_Ophryocystis_elektroscirrha_sp_n_a_Neogregarine_Pathogen_of_the_Monarch_Butterfly_Danaus_plexippus_L_and_the_Florida_Queen_Butterfly_D_gilippus_berenice_Cramer1/links/5f99e497299bf1b53e4ed39e/Ophryocystis-elektroscirrha-sp-n-a-Neogregarine-Pathogen-of-the-Monarch-Butterfly-Danaus-plexippus-L-and-the-Florida-Queen-Butterfly-D-gilippus-berenice-Cramer1.pdf?origin=publication_detail  
 
“Host Diet Affects the Morphology of Monarch Butterfly Parasites”  
Kevin Hoang, Leiling Tao, Mark D. Hunter, Jacobus C. de Roode” Abstract  
Understanding host–parasite interactions is essential for ecological research, wildlife conservation, and health management. While most studies focus on numerical traits of parasite groups, such as changes in parasite load, less focus is placed on the traits of individual parasites such as parasite size and shape (parasite morphology). Parasite morphology has significant effects on parasite fitness such as initial colonization of hosts, avoidance of host immune defenses, and the availability of resources for parasite replication. As such, understanding factors that affect parasite morphology is important in predicting the consequences of host–parasite interactions. Here, we studied how host diet affected the spore morphology of a protozoan parasite (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha), a specialist parasite of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). We found that different host plant species (milkweeds; Asclepias spp.) significantly affected parasite spore size. Previous studies have found that cardenolides, secondary chemicals in host plants of monarchs, can reduce parasite loads and increase the lifespan of infected butterflies. Adding to this benefit of high cardenolide milkweeds, we found that infected monarchs reared on milkweeds of higher cardenolide concentrations yielded smaller parasites, a potentially hidden characteristic of cardenolides that may have important implications for monarch–parasite interactions.” https://bioone.org/journals/journal-of-parasitology/volume-103/issue-3/16-142/Host-Diet-Affects-the-Morphology-of-Monarch-Butterfly-Parasites/10.1645/16-142.full  
 
I don’t know why, but I have found African Milkweed, Asclepias physocarpa to be very medicinal. I did a little experiment to prove this. I introduced sickly caterpillars to the plant. I kept them enclosed in organza bags outside as they grew and completed their cycle. Monarch caterpillars that weren't thriving were able to grow successfully and pupate after they were introduced to the african milkweed, Asclepias physocarpa. This post has the details.  
https://www.facebook.com/mona.miller.73/posts/10216149671373840  
 
“Milkweeds, monarch butterflies and the ecological significance of cardenolides”  
Stephen B. Malcolm https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Stephen-Malcolm/publication/226101016_Milkweeds_monarch_butterflies_and_the_ecological_significance_of_cardenolides/links/5b9ff04645851574f7d25661/Milkweeds-monarch-butterflies-and-the-ecological-significance-of-cardenolides.pdf?origin=publication_detail (scroll down to read on this link). I did find in this article that tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica has the highest level of toxins.
by June Ramitez
on November 6, 2021 at 8:59 PM
I live in the low AZ desert zone 9b. I grew 4 different types of milkweed from seed this year. The 1st week of Oct 2021 I finally started to see monarch butterflies in my garden. The only plants the monarchs frequent are the tropical milkweed even though three others are native to my state. Since the tropical milkweed was grown from seed I feel safe that they don't have OE. I will cut them down when I don't find any activity on them. Every time I go out I find at least 3 monarchs flying around my plants. My plants should be crawling with cats. Sadly they are not. So I am taking it into my own account to raise them outside in a screened enclosure this year.
 
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