En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Something eating milkweed leaves in Austin

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - June 23, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Something eating milkweed leaves in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have some milk weed plants, and have noticed in the last few weeks that something is eating the leaves on them. The flowers are fine and no other plant appears to be bothered. I thought perhaps it was the monarch butterfly(which is the sole reason that I planted them!) eating them, but do not know if its even time for them. anxious to hear from you!

ANSWER:

If you planted the milkweed to attract butterflies, examine it closely for some very small but very colorful caterpillars. We will use Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) as an example. It is a larval host for Monarch and Queen butterflies, which means the leaves are there to be eaten by the larvae of those butterflies. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds, but they don't eat leaves. We found this paragraph on our webpage on this plant that we think is illuminating:

"Inevitably butterfly weed will get aphids; you can leave them for ladybugs to eat or spray the insects and foliage with soapy water. Aphids can also be removed by blasting the plant with a high pressure stream of water."

Because we know you are hoping to attract the Monarch, please use no poisons on it. See this article from the University of California Integrated Pest Management on Aphids to help you identify the problem and deal with it. Look on the underside of the leaves, and you will probably see both the tiny aphids, tinier eggs and the honeydew they exude, which is farmed by ants, who may also be present. Remember - NO POISONS! - butterflies die from those, too. If you have found any caterpillars, better just leave the plant alone, the water stream could wash the larvae away, too.

 

More Wildlife Gardens Questions

Hummingbird Attracting Plants for Shade in Smithville, TX
March 28, 2012 - I want hummingbird plants for shade.
view the full question and answer

hummingbird attractants
May 03, 2012 - I live in Baytown, Texas and am looking for a variety of plants that attract Hummingbirds, but are also pet friendly. I have two dogs, so this is a major concern. I am putting the plants in my backyar...
view the full question and answer

Perennial native plant to attract butterflies/hummingbirds
January 24, 2013 - Need 3-6 foot perennial native plant to attract butterflies/hummingbirds in Paris Texas...full sun, with sprinkler system
view the full question and answer

Native plants for wildlife gardening in Illinois
May 29, 2006 - I live in Rockford, Illinois. Where/How can I find information on native flowers, plants, trees, grasses and animals, and other things I can plant on our property (about an acre) to provide a home fo...
view the full question and answer

Colony of bees nesting in sycamore
July 06, 2010 - I have a very large, old sycamore tree that has recently become home to a colony of honey bees. They have taken up dwelling in a hollow limb of the tree about 25 feet off the ground. While this is gre...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center