Question and Answer

Is milkweed only good for monarchs?

Despite their natural toxicity, milkweeds are utilized by a variety of insect species. Butterflies, moths, bees, and wasps and more visit milkweeds for pollen and/or nectar. Regional studies examining milkweed pollination found over two dozen insect species using milkweeds; and results indicate that honey bees, bumble bees, other large bees, large wasps, and larger butterflies were the most important milkweed pollinators (Borders, Shepherd 2011). Likewise, there are species that consume milkweed leaves or seeds, like milkweed beetles (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus), large milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus), and tussock moths (family Lymantriidae). Predators, such as crab spiders (family Thomisidae) and mantises (order Mantodea), prey on the many insect species that frequent and depend upon milkweed. These multi-species relationships are all part of the milkweed ecosystem. The Milkweed, Monarchs and More field guide by Rea, Oberhauser and Quinn has more information on inhabitants of the milkweed patch. For these reasons, milkweeds are an important component in any pollinator mix for restoration projects. This answer, and answers to other milkweed questions, can be found on the Monarch and Milkweed Misconceptions handout.

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