Characterizing attractive and productive habitat for monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in agricultural landscapes

Andrew Myers
Michigan State University Department of Entomology
Andrew is motivated by a desire to help create landscapes that support rich ecological communities alongside productive human activities. After completing a BS in Fisheries and Wildlife Management at MSU, Andrew spent several years away from Michigan earning an MS in Conservation Biology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and as an Ecological Consultant in California. He is now pleased to be back in at MSU working on his PhD. Because agricultural intensification is recognized as both the only hope to feed the growing global population and the greatest contributor to the biodiversity crisis, he considers agroecology a major "front line" of conservation biology. Andrew’s current research centers on finding win-win situations between agricultural production and biodiversity conservation and focuses on the iconic monarch butterfly. As monarchs decline, they are becoming a symbol for species conservation and an opportunity to manage agricultural landscapes for productivity and biodiversity.
Other presenters/researchers: 
Dr. Christie Bahlai, Michigan State University Department of Integrative Biology; Dr. Douglas Landis, Professor, Michigan State University Department of Entomology

Eastern monarch butterfly populations have recently declined, partly due to reduction of common milkweed in the North Central US. Formerly, milkweed growing in crop fields may have been highly attractive and low-risk breeding habitat. Due to effective weed control, milkweed is now largely confined to roadside edges and other grassland habitats with potentially greater predation risk. We used sentinel milkweed plants and sentinel eggs to measure wild monarch oviposition rates and egg predation rates in crop and non-crop habitats. Monarchs laid the most eggs on milkweed in corn and the fewest in soybean (~0.05 versus ~0.001 eggs/observation, respectively). Egg survival was comparable in corn, soybean, turf, and fallow plots but much lower in grasslands (mean 72-hour survival 56 versus 10%, respectively). Results suggest monarch conservation efforts should account for lower survival in grassland versus cropland habitats.

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