After a very poor year of milkweed seeds, I thought I’d try some hand pollination and see if that helps. In many flowers and fruits you can just go around with a small water color brush and move the pollen from one flower to another. With milkweed however, what I’ve learned though is that it’s a much more labor intensive process than I thought at first. You have to hand remove the pollinarium which are two sacks of pollen attached together. Insects like bees get their legs caught in the pollinarium and pull it out when they struggle to get free. Then when they move to another flower, they may insert it into the stigmatic groove on another flower. Here is a link from Monarch Watch which describes the process.
Below are a couple of videos showing the process. I’m wondering if a smaller bee population might be part of the problem. Since swamp millkweed only lives 2 to 5 years I need to come up with a solution for this problem.
Here’s a picture of the pollinarium in the stigmatic groove.
Note – I had one response which said that they use a small water color brush on tropical milkweed and had good results. I’ll test this out also, but doubt that it’s the paint brush doing the pollination and more likely bees.