Monarch Conservation in Agroecosystems
During the past 20 years the population of monarch butterflies in eastern North America has exhibited significant declines, raising concerns about the long-term viability of this iconic species. One of the major hypothesized causes of the decline of monarchs is the elimination of milkweed host plants from midwestern row crops through the widespread adoption of glyphosate-resistant cropping systems beginning in the late 1990s. In response, a tremendous effort is underway to plant milkweed plants for monarchs in parks, gardens, and roadsides. However, past research suggests that these habitats may not be as attractive or apparent to egg-laying monarchs as agricultural areas. Furthermore, a strong body of biocontrol research also suggests that these habitats may subject monarch eggs and larvae to high predation and parasitism pressure. The Landis Lab is investigating these questions in order to determine what represents the most productive breeding habitat for monarch butterflies in order to maximize habitat restoration efforts. Our first monarch field season in 2016 investigated these questions at the Kellogg Biological Station Cellulosic Biofuels Diversity Experiment yielded some interesting results which we are eager to build upon and publish in the coming years.