Predators of monarch butterfly eggs and neonate larvae are more diverse than previously recognised
Conserving threatened organisms requires knowledge of the factors impacting their populations. The Eastern monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus L.) has declined by as much as 80% in the past two decades and conservation biologists are actively seeking to understand and reverse this decline. While it is well known that most monarchs die as eggs and young larvae, few studies have focused on identifying what arthropod taxa contribute to these losses. The aim of our study was to identify previously undocumented predators of immature monarchs in their summer breeding range in the United States. Using no-choice feeding assays augmented with field observations, we evaluated 75 arthropod taxa commonly found on the primary host plant for their propensity to consume immature monarchs. Here we report 36 previously unreported monarch predators, including representatives from 4 new orders (Orthoptera, Dermaptera, Lepidoptera and Opiliones) and 11 taxa (Acrididae, Gryllidae, Tettigoniidae, Forficulidae, Anthocoridae, Geocoridae, Lygaeidae, Miridae, Nabidae, Erebidae and Opilliones). Surprisingly, several putative herbivores were found to readily consume immature monarchs, both in a targeted fashion or incidentally as a result of herbivory. This work expands our understanding of the monarch predator community and highlights the importance of unrecognized predation on insects of conservation concern.
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