Video surveillance reveals a community of largely nocturnal Danaus plexippus (L.) egg predators

Abstract

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 Stål), 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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Acknowledgements

A version of this manuscript was used as a dissertation chapter by A.T.M. in partial fulfillment of a Ph.D. at Michigan State University. Matthew Grieshop provided invaluable guidance for building camera systems. Lane Proctor, Lindsie Egedy, Kelsi Kroll, and Carissa Blackledge assisted with field work and data processing. Elizabeth D’Auria, Allison Zahorec, and Sara Hermann provided helpful manuscript edits. Wildtype Native Plant Nursery supplied milkweed plants. Joe Simmons and Stacey VanderWulp supported work conducted at the Kellogg Biological Station. This study was funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture, Award Number 2017-68004-26323, by the National Science Foundation Long-term Ecological Research Program (DEB 1637653) at the Kellogg Biological Station, and by Michigan State University AgBioResearch. A.M. received additional support from the Kellogg Biological Station Long Term Ecological Research Graduate Student Fellowship (https://lter.kbs.msu.edu/), Kellogg Farm 2017 Graduate Student Mini-grant, and Ray and Bernice Hutson Memorial Entomology Endowment Fund Research Award. D.L. and N.H. also received support from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (Award DE-SC0018409).

Funding

This study was funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture, Award Number 2017-68004-26323, by the National Science Foundation Long-term Ecological Research Program (DEB 1637653) at the Kellogg Biological Station, and by Michigan State University AgBioResearch. A.M. received additional support from the Kellogg Biological Station Long Term Ecological Research Graduate Student Fellowship (https://lter.kbs.msu.edu/), Kellogg Farm 2017 Graduate Student Mini-grant, and Ray and Bernice Hutson Memorial Entomology Endowment Fund Research Award.

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Correspondence to Andrew T. Myers.

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Myers, A.T., Haan, N.L. & Landis, D.A. Video surveillance reveals a community of largely nocturnal Danaus plexippus (L.) egg predators. J Insect Conserv 24, 731–737 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-020-00248-w

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Keywords

  • Predator–prey interactions
  • Nocturnal predation
  • Monarch butterfly
  • Grasslands