Establishment and maintenance of milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.) in agricultural landscapes of the north central United States are needed to reverse the decline of North America's eastern monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) population. Because of a lack of toxicity data, it is unclear how insecticide use may reduce monarch productivity when milkweed habitat is placed near maize and soybean fields. To assess the potential effects of foliar insecticides, acute cuticular and dietary toxicity of 5 representative active ingredients were determined: beta-cyfluthrin (pyrethroid), chlorantraniliprole (anthranilic diamide), chlorpyrifos (organophosphate), and imidacloprid and thiamethoxam (neonicotinoids). Cuticular median lethal dose values for first instars ranged from 9.2 x 10-3 to 79 μg/g larvae for beta-cyfluthrin and chlorpyrifos, respectively. Dietary median lethal concentration values for second instars ranged from 8.3 x 10-3 to 8.4 μg/g milkweed leaf for chlorantraniliprole and chlorpyrifos, respectively. To estimate larval mortality rates downwind from treated fields, modeled insecticide exposures to larvae and milkweed leaves were compared to dose-response curves obtained from bioassays with first-, second-, third-, and fifth-instar larvae. For aerial applications to manage soybean aphids, mortality rates at 60 m downwind were highest for beta-cyfluthrin and chlorantraniliprole following cuticular and dietary exposure, respectively, and lowest for thiamethoxam. To estimate landscape-scale risks, field-scale mortality rates must be considered in the context of spatial and temporal patterns of insecticide use.


Biological Sciences


The present study was supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Pollinator Health Program (grant 20186701327541) from the US Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture; the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Iowa State University (ISU); and the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium.

Keywords and Phrases

Conservation; Insecticides; Monarch butterfly; Risk assessment; Toxicology

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0730-7268; 1552-8618

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type




Publication Date

01 Apr 2020

PubMed ID