Partnering to conserve the monarch butterfly migration

Other Anthropogenic Concerns

Other Anthropogenic Concerns

Untimely management

Wise management practices are essential in providing long-term habitat for monarchs and other wildlife, but if appropriate guidelines are not followed, monarchs and other organisms using the site could be harmed. Untimely or too frequent management, like mowing, causes additional concern for an already vulnerable monarch population. Eggs, larvae, pupae, and even adults may be killed directly by the mower, and mowing may also destroy critical host or nectar plants. To limit mortality to monarchs and other pollinators, follow the guidelines recommended in MJV’s Mowing: Best Practices for Monarchs Handout.

Vehicle Collisions

While little research has been conducted to quantify the direct impacts of vehicle collisions on the monarch population, mortality along our roadways does occur. Despite threats that come with restoring roadside habitat for wildlife, the benefits of increasing habitat availability and connectivity are likely outweigh the costs to monarchs. With development and continuing land conversion, wildlife habitat continues to decline. Roadsides provide an opportunity to replace some of the habitat that has been lost from the landscape to benefit monarchs, but additional research is needed to determine what characteristics may make roadside habitat more or less effective. For additional information, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation conducted a literature review on Pollinator Habitat Enhancement and Best Management Practices in Highway Rights-of-Way.

Spread of non-native species

In parts of the southern U.S. and California, the year-round persistence of non-native tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) allows monarchs to breed throughout the winter. These year-round tropical milkweed patches foster higher transmission rates of the protozoan Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE), increasing the likelihood that monarchs become infected with the debilitating parasite. Therefore, it is recommended that tropical milkweed be cut back in the fall and winter months in the southern U.S. and California, and should be gradually replaced with native milkweeds as they become available. Read more about Potential Risks of Growing Exotic Milkweeds for Monarchs.

Another alien invader is jeopardizing the process of monarch reproduction by confounding female monarchs during the egg laying process. Black swallow-wort (Cynanchum louisea, formerly C. nigrum or Vincetoxicum nigrum) and pale swallow-wort (Cynanchum rossicum, formerly Vincetoxicum rossicum) are members of the milkweed family (Asclepiadacea) native to Europe. Female monarchs will lay eggs on black swallow-wort, even when it is growing in the same field as common milkweed (Casagrande and Dacey 2007), and monarch caterpillars cannot feed on black or pale swallow-wort plants. Thus, swallow-worts may act as a “sink” for monarchs; caterpillars from eggs laid on these invasive plants will not survive. In addition, swallow-worts can crowd out native milkweeds, decreasing the availability of appropriate food sources for monarch caterpillars. Black and pale swallow-worts should not be confused with Cynanchum laeve (common names sandvine, honeyvine, bluevine milkweed, and smooth swallow-wort), a similar plant that is native to eastern and central U.S. states and Ontario. C. laeve is an appropriate monarch host, and is found in many of the same states as the invasive species. Sandvine has heart shaped leaves and white flowers, and is native to North America. Read more about these invasive species on our MJV Invasive Species Alert handout.

References:

Casagrande, R.A. and J.E. Dacey, 2007. Monarch Oviposition on Swallowworts (Vincetoxicum spp.). Environ. Entomol. 36(3):631-636 (2007)