In 2020, Bowdoin College student Katie Galleta conducted research on the relationship between the Monarch butterfly and milkweed in Amherst's grasslands. Her project examined how insect communities and their herbivory on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) may influence the egg-laying behavior of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). She examined insect diversity and abundance, determined the type and extent of insect herbivore damage, and counted the number of monarch eggs laid on milkweed plants to see whether these affect the oviposition preferences of the butterflies. Her surveys consisted of examining each plant within 1m on either side of a 30m transect, laid in areas with moderate to high densities of milkweed plants.
Katie worked with many different conservation commissions including the Amherst Conservation Commission, land trusts, environmental organizations, and private landowners to locate sites across southern New Hampshire that have large populations of milkweed to study. The field work forms the basis of her senior honors project in the Bowdoin College Biology Department.
As a Nature Steward, you can help increase the areas of milkweed to directly enhance the survivabilty of these charismatic butterflies.