Nonnative milkweed affecting migration behavior and disease dynamics of monarch butterflies.
January 16, 2015
Ok...so its not a reptile or amphibian project update...but it is some amazing work by our very own Dara Satterfield that was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London and is lighting up the internet. Dara's work suggests that the planting of nonnative milkweeds, which many people do in an effort to help monarch butterfiles, is actually causing harm. Having access to milkweed en route to wintering grounds in Mexico has caused some monarchs to break diapause and become non-migratory breeders along Gulf states. An important function of monarch migration is release from pathogens that build up on breeding grounds. In areas with nonnative milkweed, parasite levels are building up and infection rates of monarchs can be very high. This may be contributing to the significant declines in monarch populations in the U.S., and to the loss of one of nature's most spectacular migration events. You can read more about the work and issues facing monarch butterfiles in this Science News post.