A Citizen-Science Approach Testing the Effect of Native and Non-Native Milkweed Species on Monarch (Danaus plexippus) Development in the Midwestern United States

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Kaitlyn Reimer
Theresa Culley


Record ID: 156

Type: Poster Presentation (in-person)

Advisor: Theresa Culley

Abstract: In recent decades, the North American Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) population has faced a major decline. This is mainly a result of the decline of Milkweed (American Asclepias), which Monarchs rely on for their spring breeding. Thus, the restoration of native milkweed is vital for the survival of Monarch populations. Many conservation groups have run to the aid of this species, and the movement to save the butterflies has easily caught traction, thanks to the species' iconic reputation. The citizen science approach has been leading the fight to preserve Monarch populations in the Midwest, through both the restoration of the native milkweed populations and the indoor raising and eventual release of Monarchs. This study aimed to mimic the conditions that these citizen scientists rear their monarchs in and compare the effects of different milkweed species on the growth and survival of the butterflies. The host plant species examined consisted of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata L.), common milkweed (A. syriaca L.), butterfly weed (A. tuberosa L.), honeyvine (Cynanchum laeve [Michx.] Pers.), and non-native tropical milkweed (A. curassavica L.). Monarchs raised on swamp and tropical milkweed had the best growth and survival rates during each life stage, compared to the other plant host species. However, it is important to note that tropical milkweed is not native to the Midwestern United States and may create an ecological trap for Monarch migration patterns. Therefore, the species Asclepias incarnata L. is deemed uniquely fit for Monarch rearing and release in the Midwest.

Article Details

Category: Ecosystems & Biodiversity
Author Biography

Kaitlyn Reimer, University of Cincinnati

Major(s): Biology, environmental studies