Cardiac glycosides and oviposition by Danaus plexippus on Asclepias fruticosa in south-east Queensland (Australia), with notes on the effect of plant nitrogen content


Department of Entomology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia 4067.


Abstract. 1. Previous studies which attempt to relate oviposition by female monarchs, Danaus plexippus (L.), to the cardiac glycosides of their milkweed host plants are reviewed and found to be defective.

2. Here we followed ovipositing females in the field and recorded their oviposition behaviour on individual Asclepias fruticosa (L.) plants. The cardenolide glycoside and per cent nitrogen of each of these plants and also of a control set of plants was recorded.

3. Milkweeds accepted by females, on which egg laying took place, had significantly lower mean cardenolide levels compared with rejected plants and a control sets of plants.

4. Most oviposition (c. 70%) took place on plants with intermediate cardenolide (CG) levels (=200–300 μg/0.1 g DW).

5. The mean CG level in A.fruticosa was 345 μg/0.1 g DW (SD = 138, n=122, range 119–719).

6. There was no relationship between monarch oviposition behaviour and plant per cent nitrogen.