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Monarch Rx: Exploring a Little-Known Behavior of a Beloved Butterfly

February 23 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Most people are aware of the connection between monarch butterflies and milkweed. But did you know that adult monarchs sometimes visit dry or injured parts of certain plants to take up and store toxic chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs)? PAs do not provide the butterflies with food but contribute to their defense. Despite being poorly documented, this behavior must be of relevance in the life of monarchs, but it might be plastic—and most details are yet unknown. Until now, few people have observed or looked for this behavior in the U.S.

Natural History Society of Maryland logoThis talk will focus on Danaus plexippus, but it will be put it in the general framework of PA-pharmacophagy and include discussion of other milkweed butterflies (Danaini), clearwing butterflies (Ithomiini), arctiine moths (Arctiini), as well as other insects. It is presented by the Natural History Society of Maryland.

Speakers:

  • Michael Boppré,  retired full professor at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg, Germany, specializing in research on biology, physiology, ecology and evolution of chemical communication in insects with focus on Danainae butterflies and Arctiinae moths.
  • Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife, habitat consultant, and frequent speaker on garden ecology.

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