From: Kevin Mathews, Care2
Published January 18, 2015 11:04 AM

Planting Milkweed for the Monarch's? Be sure to use the native species!

Sometimes we do the wrong thing for the right reasons. That appears to be the case for countless Americans hoping to aid the monarch butterfly. Hearing that pesticides have destroyed the milkweed that monarchs rely on for survival, sympathetic animal lovers have attempted to do their part to support the butterflies by growing milkweed in their own gardens. Alas, emerging research suggests that this well-intentioned plan appears to actually be harming the species even further.

Unfortunately, most of the milkweed purchased for this purpose is the “wrong kind.” This kind, known as tropical milkweed, is popular with gardening companies since it continues to bloom longer than the type to which monarch butterflies are accustomed. While monarchs are still more than content to eat this milkweed, that doesn’t make it good for them.

What’s the problem exactly? Since the tropical milkweed is available for months later than the monarchs are used to, they now lack the motivation to migrate southward and instead remain local. Why fly away to find food when there’s plenty right where they already are?

However, just as it’s not good for people to be sedentary, butterflies need to move around, too. This stagnant lifestyle not only makes them less healthy, but also leaves them more vulnerable to the parasites that have been killing the monarchs in recent years. Specifically, the parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha is easily transferred from infected butterflies onto the milkweed and eggs that the larvae then ingest. With so many butterflies hanging out in one area, the parasite quickly spreads.

Monarch caterpillars on milkweed image via Shutterstock.

Read more at ENN Affiliate, Care2.

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