Myers, A. T., N. L. Haan, and D. A. Landis. 2020. Video surveillance reveals a community of largely nocturnal Danaus plexippus (L.) egg predators. Journal of Insect Conservation 24:731-737.
Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus L.) declines in eastern North America have prompted milkweed host plant restoration efforts in non-agricultural grasslands. However, grasslands harbor predator communities that exert high predation pressure on monarch eggs and larvae. While diurnal monarch predators are relatively well known, no studies have investigated the contribution of nocturnal monarch predators. We used video cameras to monitor sentinel monarch eggs and fourth instars on milkweed in southern Michigan to identify predators and determine if nocturnally-active species impose significant predation pressure. We observed ten arthropod taxa consuming monarch eggs and larvae, with 74% of egg predation events occurring nocturnally. Taxa observed attacking monarch eggs included European earwigs (Forficula auricularia L.), tree crickets (Oecanthus sp.), lacewing larvae (Neuroptera), plant bugs (Miridae), small milkweed bugs (Lygaeus kalmii Stal), ants (Formicidae), spiders (Araneae: Salticidae and other spp.), harvestmen (Opiliones), and velvet mites (Trombidiformes: Trombidiidae). Larvae were attacked by ground beetles (Calleida sp.), jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae), and spined soldier bugs (Podisus maculiventris Say). Our findings provide important information about monarch predator-prey interactions that could be used to develop strategies to conserve monarchs through reducing predation on early life stages.
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