Study finds Monarch butterflies use medicinal plants to treat offspring for disease

Emory University Oct. 11, 2010, press release:

Monarch butterflies appear to use medicinal plants to treat their offspring for disease, research by biologists at Emory University shows. Their findings were published online Oct. 6 in the journal Ecology Letters.

“We have shown that some species of milkweed, the larva’s food plants, can reduce parasite infection in the monarchs,” says Jaap de Roode, the evolutionary biologist who led the study. “And we have also found that infected female butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on plants that will make their offspring less sick, suggesting that monarchs have evolved the ability to medicate their offspring.” (See interview with de Roode at http://tinyurl.com/3995m3u)

Few studies have been done on self-medication by animals, but some scientists have theorized that the practice may be more widespread than we realize. “We believe that our experiments provide the best evidence to date that animals use medication,” de Roode says.

Read more here.

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Migrating Monarchs lingered in Texas, coming to a plant near you soon

monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus  (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)

Monarch Watch of the University of Kansas is reporting that 2010’s Monarch butterfly migration stalled longer than normal in Texas due to favorable weather and plant conditions there. Gardeners are reminded to plant milkweed and nectar species to support the populations migrating through and reproducing in your neighborhood. Read more here.

Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service
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