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More than Monarchs: Busting Milkweed Myths

Apr 27, 2020


  • More than Monarchs

The article below was adapted from this Farmers for Monarchs blog post for this series

Why Monarchs? While monarchs are intrinsically important, conserving monarchs matters for more than just their own protection. We’re exploring the ways that monarch habitat and conservation helps people, other wildlife, and the environment in this ‘More than Monarchs?’ series! Join us to learn more.

Planting milkweed and nectar plants in yards, prairies, and field edges is an easy way to help monarchs. However, myths and misconceptions keep some people from helping monarchs in this way. Below we set these myths straight so you can feel comfortable taking these important steps to help monarchs.

  • Milkweed is not an invasive weed. Common milkweed and most other milkweed species found throughout the United States are native, beneficial wildflowers.  Milkweed is not listed on any state or federal lists as a noxious weed. Since there are many species, make sure to choose species native to your region. Farmers for Monarchs, an initiative of the Keystone Monarch Collaborative, has state-specific resources available online, like free or subsidized seed, technical assistance and links to state and federal cost-share programs.
  • Milkweed does not pose a major threat to livestock, pets, or children. Milkweeds do contain toxins, called cardenolides, and while distasteful, animals must consume large quantities for it to be dangerous. If good forage is available, animals are typically not inclined to eat the milkweed. For children, proper instruction to avoid ingestion or contact with eyes is recommended.
  • Monarchs are not the only species to benefit from milkweed. There are many species that eat milkweed leaves or seeds, like milkweed beetles, milkweed bugs, and tussock moths. Bees and other beneficial pollinators use it as a nectar source. Predators such as crab spiders, mantises, and tree frogs prey on the many insect species that frequent and depend upon the milkweed.

These are only a few of the misconceptions about milkweed.

As more landowners and farmers commit to restoring pollinator habitat, we encourage them to look beyond the myth and learn the many benefits of planting milkweed. The Keystone Monarch Collaborative offers more resources on milkweed myths and restoring pollinator habitat on their website. MJV also has additional resources, including a handout on Monarch and Milkweed Misconceptions. Farmers for Monarchs has also assembled state-specific resources and programs to help make planting monarch habitat easier and to find the best cost-savings opportunities. See their State Planning Resources page for information on state and federal cost-share programs, technical assistance, seed providers and more.

Busting milkweed myths is just one example of how the work we do for monarchs can make a difference in many ways. What are the co-benefits of monarch conservation that matter most to you? Keep following our “More than Monarchs?” series to hear more stories of what monarchs can do for us, our communities, and our world.

The Monarch Joint Venture is a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration. The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the positions of all Monarch Joint Venture partners.