An article co-authored by Ernest Williams, the William R. Kenan Professor of Biology emeritus and lecturer in biology, was recently published in the Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society.
“Monarch Butterflies Use Regenerating Milkweeds for Reproduction in Mowed Hayfields in Northern Virginia” documents how the reproduction of monarch butterflies can be increased by using planned mowing schemes for management of fields and meadows. The article was written with John Alcock of Arizona State University and Lincoln Brower of Sweet Briar College.
Williams participated in a similar study in 2015 in New York; the results were published in the April 2015 issue of The American Midland Naturalist.
In both studies, regenerating milkweeds were found to be more attractive to egg-laying monarchs than older, senescing plants.
The researchers found the dates of mowing and how extensive it is are critical factors in increasing monarch reproduction. They noted that fields in Virginia may be mowed about two weeks later than those in New York because of Virginia’s longer growing season.