Great Egret

Great Egret

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Milkweeds and Monarchs

Milkweeds are nicely coming into bloom these last couple of weeks. There are nine species of milkweed in Ontario, some of which are quite rare. Some of the more common ones include the bright orange Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) .

 One that is not uncommon, but many people would not notice it, is the Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata), which grows in small numbers along the edges of lush deciduous forests.
 An uncommon species more or less restricted to prairies and savannas is Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens).
Of course the most common one is, as its name suggests, Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). It is the most aromatic, in my opinion. Fortunately milkweeds were removed from Ontario's Noxious Weed List a little more than a year ago, and that will greatly benefit the declining Monarch butterfly population.

I tried to count the number of Common Milkweeds in my yard....some of which I planted several years ago, and others that just came up on their own. I counted approximately 105 plants, the majority of which will likely flower this year.
More pollinators are found on Common Milkweed than the others, presumably due to their more aromatic nature. Bees, ants, beetles, butterflies all can be found, sometimes all at the same time. But milkweeds can also be traps, as certain sized insects may get their leg trapped in the flower parts and cannot escape. The bee in this next image is one of several bees I have noticed dangling from the flowers in my yard.

Adult Monarchs have not been plentiful yet this year. In fact I have not seen any in our yard, but clearly at least one has been there.

About a week ago, we spied at least 5 good-sized larvae on various milkweeds in our yard, and the neighbours had a couple on theirs as well. They were all about the same size, so it is likely they all were from the successful efforts of a single female Monarch passing through and laying eggs a few weeks earlier.
 A couple of the milkweeds had two larvae feeding on the leaves.
A few days later, they all disappeared. I expect they all left the milkweed plants to find a safe place elsewhere, in order to make their chrysalis where they will develop into an adult.

Go Monarchs!

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