Musings of a butterfly gardener about the milkweed bug

By Kevin Piotrowicz

This spring I was excited! My milkweed was blooming and going to seed. I have 3 healthy clumps of it, each one with seed pods. I counted the seed pods at one time... 22... I had 22 seed pods on 3 plants! Could it be possible? Could I finally have reached the point that I had a sustainable amount of milkweed growing that would not be decimated by monarch caterpillars?

I was telling my friends, "My milkweed is growing great! I may be able to support a population of monarchs!" There were even a couple of them flying around the yard, landing on the milkweed, and frolicking amount the wax myrtle.

With great joy I watched 3 monarch caterpillars munch on my milkweed. The small plant colony even survived as the caterpillars pupated. Not only survived, it expanded! More shoots came out from the bases of the plants! More flowers! More seed pods! All was right with my garden. The zebra longwings and gulf fritillaries had new friends to play with.


The Monarch Butterfly or simply monarch is a milkweed butterfly in the family Nymphalidae.
Other common names depending on region include:
Milkweed, Common Tiger, Wanderer, and Black Veined Brown.
Scientific name: Danaus plexippus
Symbol of: Texas, Alabama, West Virginia, Illinois, Minnesota, Vermont, Idaho


What's this??? What is this orange bug with black spots? It's all over the milkweed! They are small right now but they are numerous. This looks like a job for the internet. What!?!?!?! Milkweed bugs? What cruel joke of nature is this? Not a pest the articles read? A beneficial bug? It helps to control the spread of milkweed? But wait, I want the milkweed to flourish, to be fertile, to multiply, to feed my growing monarch population. These bugs are both numerous and ravenous. If I get out the insecticide it will not only kill off the milkweed bug, I haven't found one that specifically states "kills milkweed bugs only". What is a butterfly gardener to do?

At this point 1 of the 3 of my milkweed plants is all but leafless. The monarch caterpillar that was on that bush has been transported to one that is much less infested. Part of being a butterfly gardener is the dread of using chemicals and the joy of allowing nature to take it's course. For now I sit and observe. Who will win this battle? The monarch? The milkweed bug? The milkweed plant?

Remaining as neutral as the Swiss may be too much for this gardener. The survival of the plant world may need assistance in this battle.

Now where did I put that diatomaceous earth?


See Milkweed plants available at TopTropicals. To learn about non-harsh pest control, see TopTropicals video.