13 Monarch Predators- Save More Monarch Butterflies (2022)

A Growing List of Monarch Killers

13 Monarch Predators- Save More Monarch Butterflies (1)

Growing up, most of us weretaught that monarchs are protected from predators by the toxins they absorb eating milkweed. However, over time, many predators have adapted…

The same misinformation we embraced last century continuesto misleadnew generationsthrough shows like Wild Kratts: Voyage of the Butterflies. In this episode, a spider cuts a monarch from its web, refusing to eat the milkweed-laced butterfly…essentially spinning science into science fiction!

While I can’t argue the show was entertaining, I’ve already heard thismisinformationrepeated from several of its young fans.

While nature’s truth may not always be pretty, it must be told if monarch enthusiasts across North America want to effectively increase the struggling monarch population.

Here’s what you need to know…

Common Monarch Predators and How to Stop Them


ALL Monarch Predators

Solution 1

Plant placement can reducepredator traffic. Monarch eggs and caterpillars on single milkweed plants often go undetected…so do plants in partial shade.


ANTS

Many species of ants will feed on both monarch eggs and caterpillars. They also feed on other butterfly caterpillars:

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What’s worse, is ants sharethis strange symbiotic relationship where they protect milkweed-destroying aphids in exchange for their sweet secretions! Nature is nothing if not strange…


ANTSOLUTIONS?

In our northern climate, we have several ant species in our garden and I’m sure they eatsome monarch eggs and caterpillars. However,they have not proven to be a nuisance so we leavethem alone, as we do with many insectsthat butterfly gardeners consider pests.

If your garden pests are innocent until proven guilty, a healthy ecosystemshould develop that can support both monarchs and their predators.

(Video) How can we save the endangered monarch butterfly population?

And as always, you always have the option of bringing in a few eggs or small caterpillars to save them from the surprisingly long list of monarch predators…

But, if their numbers start getting out of control:

Ant Solution 1

Mix 1 Tbsp. of powdered sugar with 1 part baking soda. The powdered sugar attracts them, and the baking soda disrupts their digestive tracks, eventually killing them. Place the mixture in jar lids near the plants they are invading.

Ant Solution 2

outdoorliquid ant baitsthese weatherproofbaits by terro are stuck into the ground so they’ll stay in place during stormy weather. Ant-killing borax is the main ingredient. These pre-mixed baitsare cheap, convenient…and they work!

If you know of other effective solutions for keeping ants at bay in the garden, please post in the comment section below…

Ant Solution 3

MBG Community member Roberta C. and others have reported using coffee grounds to repel ants in their gardens:

“Use coffee grounds, recycled works fine, not decaf, in your dirt around your milkweed. Ants depend on their scent trail to survive and make it home, there’s something in coffee grounds that disrupts their trail or scent so they avoid coffee grounds. Grams used it in her flower beds and veggie garden.”

You can also pour the grounds ontheir anthill to encourage them to move their base of operations…

Tip: rewet the grounds every few days to enhance the coffee smell


MANTID SPP

Mantids are skilled hunters that eat a variety of insects including monarchs. Mantids are sometimes used as biological pest control. The nymphs eat aphids and leafhoppers, but the adults will go after larger prey:

13 Monarch Predators- Save More Monarch Butterflies (3)


MANTID SOLUTIONS?

Mantis Solution 1

A prime example of why you should avoid biological pest control…there are usually unintended consequences!

Mantis Solution 2

Relocate monstrous mantids to less butterfly-friendly plants.

(Video) Monarch butterfly declared endangered amid declining numbers


WASPS

If you raise monarch butterflies, there is a great lesson to be learned from this disturbing video:

note:yellow jackets aren’t the only predatory wasp attackingmonarchs. Paper wasps are the worst monarch predator in our northern garden, on constant patrol formonarch caterpillars.


WASP SOLUTIONS?

Wasps are an issue for monarchs across the globe, from the US to New Zealand.

If you raise monarchs, they need at least 3 hours to dry their wings before they are released. If you want to learn more about how to safely raise and release monarchs, check out my raising resources page.

If you’ve read other articles on this blog, you know I’m a proponent of nurturing a healthy ecosystem which includes monarchs andtheir predators.

Wasps are always welcome in our garden as beneficial pollinators, but unfortunately, their children have to eat…caterpillars.

If you watched the video above, you might have have vowedto keep your garden wasp-free. I’m here to tell you that’s not possible or advisable.

Remember, one monarch lays hundreds of eggs so predators are a necessary evilto maintain a healthy ecosystem in your garden…

However, that doesn’t mean you need to host wasp nests on your property. We removed potter wasp nests from the bottom of a common milkweed leaf.

We also had a paper wasp nest on our house, conveniently built right above one of our milkweed patches.

Wasp Solution 1

If this happens to you, you can sacrifice most of your monarchs or you can take down the nest when it’s dark, cold, or raining…do this early in the season before thepopulation explodes.

You should be able to knock down the nest with the handle of a long broom, but if you can’t, or they come back, you’ll have to consider more permanent solutions…

Wasp Solution 2

A community member suggested these non-toxic W.H.Y. (wasp, hornet, yellowjacket) traps that are supposed to be very effective for trapping these relentless predators without harming the environment:

(Video) Monarch Lifecycle Crash Course | Milkweed Plant Basics

Non-Toxic Wasp, Hornet, Yellowjacket traps

The next solution is potentially more dangerous to the both the environment…and to you! So please, proceed with caution…

Wasp Solution 3

This is one of the only times I’m on board with using pesticides in the garden, butplease read the label carefully and try to keep the spraying directly on the nest:

Find Wasp and Hornet Killer Spray

Last season we sprayed an underground yellow jacket nest in our raised beds. We sprayed early morning during a light rain, andI never saw another wasp emerge from the nest.

Wasp Solution 4

A good way to deter wasps is by placing 5 Gallon Paint Strainersor Mosquito Netting over your milkweed. You can use tomato cages for extra support. This willkeep them from snatching up your poor, unsuspecting caterpillars. This idea works best forpotted milkweed plants.


SPIDERS

Spiders are the kings and queens of camouflage. They are usually hidden from sight and will feed on your small caterpillars at night.

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Also, if you raise monarchs on potted plants or stem cuttings with buds/flowers, it’s easy to unknowingly invite spiders into your raising cage.


SPIDER SOLUTIONS?

If you consider that spiders feast on most of the other pests in your garden, I’d suggestkeeping them around.

If you have a limited milkweed supply, consider removing any spider webs that have been formed on your milkweed plants. Spiders can also be carefully relocated to nearby areas. You could cut off a small piece of occupied plant, and carry the spider outside the milky way. ?

You can’t (and shouldn’t) save all monarchs if you want to maintain a healthy ecosystem. However, bringing a few indoors to raise can help boost their low survival rate…less than 5% outdoors!

If you decide to bring a few in,feed the caterpillars stem cuttings without flowers/buds orserve single leaves.

(Video) Swamp Milkweed for Monarch Caterpillars | Have Plenty on Hand??

Discoverthe system I use to raise monarchs with a 95% survival rate in the updated 2019 Raising Monarchs Guide


UNEXPECTED Monarch Predator

If you raise monarch butterflies, make sure you don’t place monarch eggs too close together.

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After a newborn caterpillar hatches, its first meal will be thenutrition-laced egg shell. If other eggs are in the vicinity, the hungry little caterpillar may wander over to an unhatched neighborfor seconds.

The same is true when placing newborn caterpillars with large ones. If they are competing for the same milkweed leaves, the large caterpillar could eat the competition for lunch…or dinner.


RAISING SOLUTION?

In the hatchery,I space eggsout so newborns won’t find unhatched siblings. When caterpillars hatch, move remaining eggs to other leaves.

To prevent cannabalism of small caterpillars, make sure you’re raising them in a large enough caterpillar cage, withplenty of milkweed available.


More Monarch Predators List

  • Assassin bugs feast on monarch caterpillars
  • Birds (Black-backed orioles and black-headed grosbeaks are common predators for butterflies overwintering in Mexico.)
  • Chalcid Wasps (monarch chrysalis parasite)
  • Lizards
  • Mice will eat chrysalides
  • Spined Soldier Bug- Predatory Stink Bugs
  • Toads
  • Tachinid flies (monarch caterpillar parasite)
  • trichogramma wasps (monarch egg parasite)

More Monarch Predators Coming Soon!

Do you still have questions about monarch predators in your garden? Find more info in the comment section below…

Share the Joy of Butterflies

FAQs

What is the biggest predator of a monarch butterfly? ›

Birds such as black-backed orioles and black-headed grosbeaks are common predators at monarch overwintering sites. These species can eat large quantities of monarchs without getting poisoned.

What is the monarch butterfly controversy all about? ›

In the summer of 1999, Cornell entomologist John Losey sparked a worldwide controversy with the publication of a short paper in the scientific journal Nature reporting laboratory findings that monarch butterfly larvae died after eating milkweed plants dusted with pollen from genetically modified (GM) corn.

What has caused the monarch butterfly population to decrease by 90% over the past 20 years? ›

The monarch butterfly has been decreasing towards extinction due to landscape-scale threats from pesticides, development and global climate change. Over the last 20 years, monarch populations have fallen by more than 80 percent.

How does monarch butterfly defend itself from predator? ›

Some butterflies protect themselves through camouflage—by folding up their wings, they reveal the undersides and blend in with their surroundings. Through this strategy, known as crypsis, they become nearly invisible to predators. Bright colors and distinctive wing patterns can, however, be advantageous.

What is killing monarch butterflies? ›

Monarchs have many natural enemies. Predators such as spiders and fire ants kill and eat monarch eggs and caterpillars. Some birds and wasps feed on adult butterflies. These predators are easy to see, but monarchs also suffer attacks from parasites, organisms that live inside the monarchs' bodies.

What predators eat monarch butterflies? ›

More Monarch Predators List
  • Assassin bugs feast on monarch caterpillars.
  • Birds (Black-backed orioles and black-headed grosbeaks are common predators for butterflies overwintering in Mexico.)
  • Chalcid Wasps (monarch chrysalis parasite)
  • Lizards.
  • Mice will eat chrysalides.
  • Spined Soldier Bug- Predatory Stink Bugs.
  • Toads.

Which bird ate all the monarch butterflies Class 10? ›

He found that a starling would not eat ordinary bird food, but ate all the monarchs it could get. This project was placed first in the zoology division and third overall in the county science fair.

Do ladybugs harm monarch caterpillars? ›

To Milkweed, a Monarch Caterpillar is a Pest

But those ladybugs don't know that we planted some of those flowers so that insects would eat them. It was quite a surprise. Ladybugs kill monarch caterpillars.

What kind of birds eat butterflies? ›

Birds That Eat Butterflies and/or Moths

Warblers eat butterflies but mostly caterpillars, spiders, moths, and flies. Sparrows eat butterflies but mostly eat grains and seeds. Orioles eat insects (butterflies), fruit and nectar. The Black-backed Oriole found in central Mexico likes to feed on Monarch Butterflies.

Do assassin bugs eat monarch caterpillars? ›

12. Are milkweed assassin bugs bad for monarch butterflies? Milkweed assassin bugs prey on caterpillars, so they aren't great for monarch butterflies. However, they don't target them any more than other species.

Videos

1. SG589: How to Save the Monarchs with Kylee Baumle
(Jennifer Ebeling)
2. Monarch Butterfly facts: the MILKWEED butterfly 🦋 Animal Fact Files
(Animal Fact Files)
3. Save the Monarch Butterflies 🐛🌱// Garden with Glamour
(My IE Garden)
4. We Saved HUNDREDS!!! Raising MONARCH BUTTERFLIES Start to Finish!
(Cole & Jay)
5. Watch a Breathtaking Monarch Butterfly Swarm
(Nature on PBS)
6. Picking up a Monarch Butterfly
(The Fredster 2014)

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