Life Amidst the Milkweed

So, let me tell you about my Swamp Milkweed.

First of all – my Swamp Milkweed is not in a swamp.

The Swamp Milkweed is the tall, pink flowers toward the back of the photo.

My Swamp Milkweed is along a busy road, in a sunny part of my front yard, in soil that is not the clay-rich, wet soil that Swamp Milkweed is supposed to like.

And, yet, my Swamp Milkweed is thriving.

I’m so pleased, because I’m interested in insects and their relationships to the plants in my garden, and the milkweed is a great place to watch fascinating plant/insect interaction.

This year, I’m making an effort not only to look at the milkweed flowers, where Bumblebees and Monarch Butterflies feed, but also to check the leaves and stems regularly – to just stand in front of the plant and watch what is going on.

A lot goes on!

For one thing, the Monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed leaves. And then those eggs become caterpillars that dine exclusively on more milkweed leaves.

Meanwhile, other caterpillars like milkweed, too.

These are Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars, and, yes, there are a lot of them on that leaf (and there are just as many of them on the underside of that leaf!)

And, look what they have done to these other milkweed leaves:

The carnage! Is this what I want for my Swamp Milkweed?

Well,…yes. My goal is to encourage insects and pollinators in my garden, and that means I’m going to see leaf damage. (Would I offer my dinner guests roast chicken and not expect to see chicken bones?)

Other visitors I noted this evening…aphids.

Honestly, I’m not so thrilled to see the aphids. They appear on my Swamp Milkweed each year. They are a wild bunch. They make a terrible mess. Some years, I’ve tried to get rid of them with a dish soap spray, but this year, I think I’ll wait and see what happens. I read an intriguing article this evening that basically said, leave the milkweed alone. Leave the aphids alone. Let predator insects come in and do their job. So, I think I’m going to follow its advice. (If you’re interested, you can find that article HERE.)

So, how will my milkweed look in a few weeks, after it’s been savaged by so many hungry insects? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

From the dining room table, hoping some aphid-hungry ladybugs drop by soon to join the feast,

Mrs. Smythe




2 Comments on “Life Amidst the Milkweed

  1. I have Swamp Milkweed growing in my garden also, but didn’t know that’s what it was until I read your blog. Idaho is hardly a swamp, yet ours continues to thrive also. You are so fortunate to have so many caterpillars. There’s been few sightings of Monarchs in Idaho at all this year. We have only seen one, but have seen some royal oak.

    • I’m glad your milkweed is doing so well! We just started seeing caterpillars here, so keep watching – hopefully, you’ll see some in your garden as well.