St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Milkweed Mayhem

We let lots of milkweeds grow on the farm.  Around the edges of the fields, fence lines, the yard, pond margins, swamp edges etc.  Many thousands I would guess.  The idea is to attract monarch butterflies, who lay eggs on milkweeds, the caterpillar feeds on milkweeds and forms the coccoon on milkweeds and becomes a butterfly on them, as well as visits the flowers for food. 

So, being such a milkweed sponsor, something in the olden days of cow pasture and fields would have been a sign of a poor farmer, I spent a few hours checking them out over the past few days.  Milkweeds also grow on the other woods and old pasture at the cabin, so we should be a haven for monarchs.  

We see a few monarchs around, but not many, maybe one or two per day.  So, have they taken advantage of our milkweeds?

The answer appears to be a complete no!   No signs at all.   They are just coming into bloom, so we will keep watching.  Even though the monarchs are not using them, there are some other bugs that seem to be active.  

Honey Bee on the milkweed bloom
Red Milkweed Beetles enjoying themselves on the 4th of July 2015

Swamp milkweeds like lower wetter soil

I think all of the photos below are aphids or aphid eggs. Ants watch over them as they make honeydew from the milkweed plant that ants like to eat.

Milkweed sap is white, bitter and sticky.  

I saw another bug, the spined soldier bug on a milkweed but didn't get a photo.  So I looked on the internet and found this photo at  Bug Link  I will be looking for these spectacular eggs!  The bug was crawling around and disappeared or flew off as I was trying to focus closely.