Tiny drops of dew collected on my milkweed leaves and on the webbing that had been created by tiny spider mites that morning. Spider mites are pests of Tropical milkweed plants. They ingest sap out of leaves decreasing the nutrition needed by Monarch caterpillars and can attack young caterpillars. To remove these tiny red spider mites try spraying infected plants with water. Be careful not to spray off Monarch eggs also! When my spider mites get out of control, I trim back the milkweed and have to dispose of infected leaves. I haven’t trimmed back my milkweeds yet because they are covered in large milkweed seed pods that will soon open.
Each flower that is pollinated, will produce one large seed pod. Sometimes two pods can come out of on flower. The seed pod will begin to darken before opening. The crunch of the seeds can be heard when the pod is squeezed.
The seed pod will begin to crack to reveal crisp brown seeds. I counted 110 in just on pod and I have about thirty large seed pods on my Tropical Milkweed! The milkweed seeds are designed to fly. Each seed has white fluff attached to it that catches the wind and results in flight. I try to collect the seed pods before this happens. I remove the soft fluff from each seed and separate them in bags. The fluff can be used as stuffing. It is important to wash your hands after handling milkweed seeds and leaves because they are poisonous.
Milkweed bugs wait for the seed pods to open. Inside is their favorite meal, milkweed seeds! They have a tube that they use to suck the nutrients out of the multiple seeds.
Honeybees are to thank for the formation of my milkweed seed pods. They are dedicated to coming back each day to drink nectar from the milkweed flowers. In return for the nectar they provide pollination. Honeybees are declining, but you can help by planting nectar rich plants like milkweeds. Remember to not use pesticides because they harm bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.
The Monarch butterflies are still coming to my garden this winter season in Florida. They deposit the eggs on tender leaves, among flower buds, and even on seed pods.
This tiny Monarch is resting on a seed pod. The large pod is too tough for the small caterpillar to eat, but large caterpillars can eat the pods. Milkweeds provide food and a home for many different insects. Aphids and spider mites suck on leaves and then are eaten by ladybugs. Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed leaves. Bees and butterflies drink from the milkweed flowers. Milkweed bugs then eat the seeds that were formed after the flower pollination. I have discovered this amazing web of life just from observing the milkweed plant. God created the milkweed and each insect to depend on each other. What would happen if milkweeds were all destroyed?
Please help the Monarch butterfly and insects who depend on milkweeds. You can get free milkweeds seeds at http://livemonarch.com/ .
My Costa Rica tour is in 29 days!