(Contenido disponible en Español está marcado abajo)
Although we often associate milkweed with the monarch butterfly, there are lots of other insects to discover on this incredible plant! Today, we’re exploring some lesser-known milkweed residents!
Munching monarch caterpillars
You probably know that milkweed is very important for monarchs, but do you know why? It’s the monarch’s host plant. Although adult butterflies can get nectar from a variety of flowers, monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. Explore the monarch life cycle in more detail by checking out this video.
Teaching Tip: Tie this life cycle video back to a hands-on activity by making your own butterfly life cycle necklace!
Meet the milkweed longhorn beetle!
Allen is here to introduce us to another insect that makes its home on milkweed, the milkweed longhorn beetle! Click here to check it out.
Guiding Question: What do you notice about the beetles? Do you think they have camouflage? Do you think they have a warning coloration? What do you know about monarchs? How do you think that relates to these beetles?
What is this beetle?
Say hello to the beautiful milkweed leaf beetle! As you may have guessed, they also have milkweed as their host plant. Although this insect is also a beetle, it’s not part of the same family as the milkweed longhorn. This beetle is part of the leaf beetle family, not the longhorn beetle family.
Guiding Question: Knowing that this insect is a member of a different beetle family, what differences do you notice between the longhorn and the lead beetle? What similarities do you notice?
What are these bright yellow-orange insects?
These striking insects are known as milkweed aphids. They also feed on milkweed as their food source. Click here to learn more from bug expert Allen.
Guiding Question: What do you notice about their coloring? How is that similar to or different from the monarch butterfly’s coloring? Why do you think that is?
Exploring life on milkweed plants
(Disponible en español)
Different insects rely on different parts of the milkweed plant. For example, this ailanthus webworm (a species of moth) nectars on the milkweed flowers. Let’s explore them in more detail. Find a nearby milkweed plant (or use the videos above and the photos here and here), then download our milkweed diversity worksheet in English and Spanish here.
Behind the Scenes
Have you ever wondered why milkweed is called milkweed? Our scientists know the secret. This short clip should give you a clue! Can you figure it out?