Ants on milkweed flowers

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  • #32252


    Hi, I have a few flowers on my only Asclepias plant (not 100% sure which species) and am hoping they set seed for me, haven’t noticed any of the butterflies which have been laying eggs feeding on the flowers, but there are a lot  of ants on them. Is it possible for ants to pollinate them?

    I read somewhere about pollen packets in the slits of the flower being transferred from flower to flower by the butterflies on their feet, wondering if ants are actually able to do that job.




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  • #32753


    I have seen butterflies feeding on the nectar now, and also lots of bumble bees, so thinking seed is assured now…



    Hi Reikorangi teresa,

    Your description of large caterpillars dropping off the plant and curling back and forth is an accurate description of a caterpillar that has ingested poison, and I would suspect the plants had been sprayed.  It will pay to remove any caterpillars that are still alive and relocate them, if a systemic spray was used then it will pay to place the plant in isolation for two or three weeks until it dissipates.

    Apart from eggs and first instar caterpillars ants generally will not touch larger caterpillars.



    reikorangi teresa

    Hi there, I am ‘new’ to Monarchs and swan plants, and wanted to ask if it is possible if the ants can kill off the caterpillars?  I have just had a couple of large caterpillars fall off the plant and die, (well, one is in the process of dying now, curling back and forth on the ground)  I have also had a few little ones, at a guess, a week or so old, and they have turned black and are positioned straight, not hanging or anything… plants were bought from a nursery, but these are not new plants, as I can see they have been cut back before….could it be that they have been sprayed before i got them?  Does this mean that the plants are poisionous?  Can i correct them for next year or are they doomed?  Thanks in advance, should anyone have any advice for me! 🙂



    Thanks Jacqui, what brilliant photos!!

    Yes I’ve seen the ants feeding on the eggs (no aphids yet) and I’m kind of thankful for the help, as I’m madly squashing eggs at the moment, as I want my plant to survive. Probably later I’ll be doing an assault on the ants when I’m getting short of caterpillars, and need every egg I can get.




    Hi Angie

    Great macro photographs here shows you the various parts of a milkweed flower, in this case Asclepias syriaca.  It’s not one of the common plants in NZ, but the flowers/behaviour is typical of all milkweeds, e.g. swan plants as well.

    I don’t know about ants pollinating them but the butterflies sure love milkweed/swan plant flowers for nectar. Sometimes the nectar drips out of them, I’ve seen that before, amazing. If you have ants they may well be farming any aphids on your plants, so be careful about that. Some people here have used various things to reduce ants on their swan plants, as they will also take eggs.


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