Returning home after a year of sabbatical travels… it is great to be back in Ithaca, and a quick 30 minute survey of my garden revealed the intact milkweed-insect community. I promise to have the next post on Milkweeds (really Pachypodiums) and (African) Monarchs from Madagascar soon. But, for now, here is summer in the milkweed patch…
It has been raining and humid for a week…. much is blooming, although common milkweed is mostly done flowering now at the end of July.
A faded monarch adult, roaming around and laying eggs
The last of my Asclepias syriaca blooms. Note the dark brown dots “corpuscula” that attach to the milkweed’s polinia.
As I turn over my first leaf, a familiar biting and deactivation of latex is visible. Tetraopes, the four-eyed milkweed beetle, has apparently been here. Ahh, yes, the living proof next door…
A snail checks out a yellowing low leaf, perhaps taking advantage of the latex-de-activation already provided by Tetraopes.
Two of the three milkweed aphids are present, this is Aphis asclepiadis, nearly always tended by (read: protected by) ants (who eat the aphids’ poop).
Along my driveway, swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, is still flowering.
And on it a monarch has perished.
I am okay with this, an important part of the food chain! Go stinkbug!
Nearby butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, continues to open new flowers. This is a sweat bee (Halictidae, I think) that couldn’t wait for the bud to open.
And long past flowering was my poke milkweed, Asclepias exaltata, which hosted this milkweed tussock moth caterpillar (a misnomer, as the insect belongs to the tiger moth family, Arctiidae).
Still on poke milkweed was one of the hundreds (likely thousands) of Lygaeus bugs in my garden… seeking milkweed sap, but really waiting for seed pods to open.
It is late enough in the summer that another milkweed aphid has arrived. Aphis nerii does not survive the winters here, but does recolonize every summer from the south. Not quite “migration” because there is no return trip — just aphids that freeze on frozen milkweed.
The leaf mining fly Liriomyza asclepiadis is also abundant on common milkweed as well as poke milkweed (but less so on swamp and butterfly milkweed). Note the translucent yellow wormy body smack dab in the middle next to the squiggle of frass (insect poop!)
The redring milkweed ( A. variegata) native to the south eastern USA…. growing them in my yard to try and generate seeds for experiments. Damn aphids!
Thanks to Steve Broyles from SUNY Cortland for providing this experimentally generated hybrid between common milkweed and butterfly weed. I can see some hybrid traits…. but I cannot wait for the flowers.
Alas, summer is moving too quick, and the seed pods are maturing. The next generation of monarchs — if they survive — will migrate.
And finally, a teaser from Madagascar… I will report on monarchs and milkweed from our last month away soon. This post is dedicated to the memory of Lincoln Brower, who did a tremendous amount towards understanding the biology and conservation of monarchs. Thanks for reading. All my best, -Anurag