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Do Monarch Butterflies Eat Milkweed? (Answered)

Monarch butterflies are one of the most famous types of butterfly throughout the world. They are hailed for their excessively beautiful features. However, the pollinating ability and process of monarch butterflies are not talked about much. 

Today, we are going to discuss and find out whether monarch butterflies eat milkweed or not. 

Do monarch butterflies eat milkweed?

Monarch butterflies enjoy eating milkweed. In fact, milkweed plants are the sole source of food for monarch butterflies. They rely on the milkweed plant throughout their lifetime because of the nutritional value, protection, and growth. Milkweed supplies monarch butterflies with important toxins.

Let’s look at different types of milkweed and see if they are eaten by monarch butterflies. 

Swamp milkweed:

The scientific name of swamp milkweed is Asclepias incarnata. Swamp milkweed belongs to the category of perennial flowers. It is most famous for producing beautiful pink blossoms. 

The pink blossoms of swamp milkweed attract butterflies of all kinds and monarch butterflies are not an exception in this case. 

Monarch butterflies rely on swamp milkweed for survival. Because swamp milkweed holds a lot of important elements for monarch butterflies. For example, swamp milkweed is known for possessing a vital poison that ensures the survivability of monarch butterflies. 

Eating swamp milkweed protects monarch butterflies from predators. Eating the monarch butterflies will cause harm to the predators because of the poison they get from swamp milkweed.

Butterfly milkweed:

Asclepias tuberosa is the scientific name of butterfly milkweed. It is known for producing orange blossoms and attracting the monarch butterflies. Monarch butterflies can not resist the temptation of eating butterfly milkweed. 

This perennial flower plant is a favorite food item of monarch butterflies. Because they are dependent upon the nutrition provided by butterfly milkweed for the survival of the larva. So it is quite common to see monarch butterflies feeding on butterfly milkweed. 

Do monarch butterflies eat anything other than milkweed?

It is believed by experts that monarch butterflies do not eat anything else other than milkweed. There is a valid reason behind this. When the monarch butterflies are in the caterpillar stage, they are dependent upon milkweed plants for their survival and nutrition. 

The toxic poison found in the milkweed plants develops the larva of monarch butterflies and sets them up for life. The immune system of monarch butterflies increases when they continue to feed upon milkweed plants. 

Monarch butterflies do not have to rely upon multiple food sources for their survival. They only need milkweed plants in order to survive for the rest of their life. Milkweed is the most important and the only source of food for monarch butterflies. 

So they do not need any other food on their daily diet. 

Why do monarch butterflies eat milkweed?

There are a lot of valid reasons why monarch butterflies eat milkweed plants. Let’s discuss those reasons in detail. 

For survival:

The first major reason why monarch butterflies eat milkweed is for their survival. Milkweed flowers have a critical toxic poison in them that is required by the monarch butterflies for their survival. The name of this poison is cardenolides. 

If milkweed is eaten by any animals other than monarch butterflies, then they would have a cardiac arrest due to this poison. This is what makes monarch butterflies different. They are able to digest this poison and use it to their advantage. 

The predators can not eat monarch butterflies because of the cardenolides poison inside them. This gives them ultimate protection against all types of predators.

For development:

The caterpillars of monarch butterflies are dependent upon milkweed plants for their development. The caterpillars eat the leaves of milkweed plants for their proper growth. 

As milkweed plants are the sole source of food for monarch caterpillars, they can not develop into an adult butterfly without it. 

For protection:

Milkweed plants provide protection for the monarch caterpillars until they turn into an adult monarch butterfly. Milkweed plants are important for the life cycle of monarch butterflies as they can not survive without relying on the advantages provided by milkweed plants. 

For nutrition:

Milkweed flower is the only source of food for monarch butterflies. They can not eat anything else because of their function and body structure. Monarch butterflies can not live for long without eating milkweed flowers. 

Milkweed flowers and monarch butterflies are made for each other. But monarch butterflies need milkweed flowers more to cover their nutritional needs. 

For reproduction:

Monarch butterflies are known for laying eggs on the milkweed plants. The eggs receive food nutrition from the milkweed plants. The eggs would not be able to turn into butterflies without a milkweed plant. 

What type of milkweed do monarch butterflies eat?

There are a lot of different varieties of milkweed plants that monarch butterflies like to eat. Let’s discuss in detail about some of them. 

Purple milkweed:

The scientific name of purple milkweed is Asclepias purpurascens. They are known for producing amazing purple blossoms. They are good at attracting monarch butterflies and monarch butterflies also rely on them for food and protection. 

Purple milk flowers have cardenolides poison. They also help the monarch caterpillars to develop into the adult butterflies. 

Common milkweed:

Asclepias syriaca is known by the name common milkweed. The color of common milkweed’s blossoms is pink. Monarch butterflies are drawn towards common milkweed because of the poison it has. 

The caterpillars of monarch butterflies also rely upon the leaves of common milkweed for their nutrition.

Butterfly milkweed:

Butterfly milkweed’s scientific name is Asclepias tuberosa. This variety of milkweed plants is such a favourite of the monarch butterflies that it has even been nicknamed as butterfly milkweed. 

The orange blossoms of butterfly milkweed work as a great attraction for monarch butterflies and provide them with food and protection. 

Redring milkweed:

The scientific name of redring milkweed is Asclepias variegata. This variety of milkweed plant is famous for producing beautiful white blossoms. They are very good at attracting monarch butterflies. 

And monarch butterflies also depend upon them for food and cardenolides poison. 

Swamp milkweed:

Asclepias incarnata also known as swamp milkweed is a favorite variety of monarch butterflies. They are known for feeding upon the leaves of swamp milkweed for cardenolides poison. 

Swamp milkweed also provides protection for the larva of monarch butterflies.

White swamp milkweed:

The basic difference between white swamp milkweed and swamp milkweed is the color of their blossoms. White swamp milkweed produces white blossoms and is able to attract monarch butterflies just like swamp milkweed. 

How long do monarchs need milkweed?

Monarch butterflies need milkweed throughout their lifetime. The reason behind this is that the only source of food needed for the survival and development of monarch butterflies is milkweed plants. 

Monarch butterflies eat the milkweed flowers to gather the much needed cardenolides poison and monarch caterpillars eat the milkweed leaves for their growth. Additionally, milkweed plants provide protection to the larva of monarch butterflies. 

Considering all of the crucial benefits provided by the milkweed plants, it is impossible for monarch butterflies to survive without milkweed. 

How do monarch butterflies eat milkweed?

Monarch butterflies eat milkweed with the help of their feeding tube. The feeding tube is crucial for monarch butterflies to eat the cardenolides poison found in milkweed flowers. 

After monarch butterflies have successfully eaten cardenolides poison from milkweed, they begin to digest the poison with the help of a metamorphosis process. Monarch caterpillars on the other hand are known for eating the leaves of milkweed plants for their natural growth. 

It is fascinating to see a monarch butterfly feed upon a milkweed plant. 

Do monarch butterflies eat milkweed leaves?

Milkweed is known for being the only source of food for monarch butterflies. No part of the milkweed gets left during the life cycle of monarch butterflies. 

For example, when the larva of monarch butterflies turns into caterpillars, it begins feeding on the leaves of milkweed for its survival and growth. 

It is natural for monarch caterpillars to feed upon milkweed leaves as it is the only source of food for them and they are not used to eating anything else other than milkweed leaves. 

Will monarch caterpillars eat milkweed stems?

Monarch butterflies are seen eating milkweed stems for their survival and growth. Specially, the monarch butterflies rely upon the nutrition provided by the milkweed stems when they are in the caterpillar stage.

That is why many butterfly owners prefer to cut the stems of milkweed plants and feed them to their monarch butterflies. Monarch caterpillars have to be fed milkweed stems on a daily basis for their proper growth. 

Milkweed stems are recommended by experts as a good choice of food for monarch caterpillars. 

Final Thoughts

Milkweed plants are eaten by monarch butterflies for several reasons. Cardenolides poison is provided by milkweed plants which is needed for the survival of monarch butterflies. Monarch butterflies can be seen feeding on the leaves of milkweed plants when they are in the caterpillar stage.