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1 April 2015 Enhancing Monarch Butterfly Reproduction by Mowing Fields of Common Milkweed
Sandra J. Fischer
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To determine if manipulation of milkweed's natural phenology would increase monarch reproduction, strips were mowed in fields in upstate New York in early Jul., late Jul., and mid Aug., 2006, for comparison to an unmowed control. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) was then monitored from Jul. 29 through Sep. 24 for plant height, vegetative stage, level of herbivory, condition, monarch eggs and larvae, and the position of eggs on leaves and stems. We found mowing on Jul. 1 and 24 spurred the regrowth of milkweed and sustained a more continuously suitable habitat for monarch oviposition and larval development than the control. Mowing on Aug. 17 proved too late for recovery of the milkweeds. Significantly more eggs were laid on the fresh resprouted milkweeds than on the older and taller control plants. In the strips mowed on Jul. 1, peak egg densities occurred in late Jul.; in the strips mowed in late Jul., peak egg densities occurred in early to mid Aug. Depending on the timing of mowing, the milkweed plant height, developmental stage, and condition differed. As predicted, the mowing of fields with Asclepias syriaca extended the monarchs' breeding season and increased overall monarch reproduction. However, timing of mowing was critical and must be determined empirically for different milkweed species and in different locations. This mitigation procedure could be fostered along roadsides, along edges of fields and pastures, in USDA conservation reserve program lands, and along power lines and other rights of way.

2015, American Midland Naturalist
Sandra J. Fischer "Enhancing Monarch Butterfly Reproduction by Mowing Fields of Common Milkweed," The American Midland Naturalist 173(2), 229-240, (1 April 2015).
Received: 13 March 2014; Accepted: 1 December 2014; Published: 1 April 2015

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