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The Mighty Monarch

By Staff | Aug 9, 2019

Have you ever given thought to how far the Monarch butterfly has to migrate??On delicate wings, the Monarch swoops through the air on its migratory path to spend winters in the South.

We used to see more Monarchs in the Fall as they wing their way to their Winter homes. Over the years, we have observed a dwindling population of Monarchs. Efforts are being made to reverse this trend.

Planting milk weeds is a big drawing card for butterflies. We know milk weeds are a “weed” but the butterflies like them, so we must, too.

Palo Alto Garden Club distributes milk weed seeds. The group has sold butterfly feeders at their annual Spring plant sale. And, the Garden Club promotes planting native plants that attract pollinators and birds.

The Garden Club asks:?Did You Know??Common Milkweed attracts 42 butterfly species; Swamp Milkweed draws 20 species; Butterfly Weed attracts nine species. However, the number one butterfly attracting flowers are the native Dogbanes. More than 43 species have been observed feeding on this plant. There just aren’t many non-native plant species that butterflies seek out for nectar or as a host. Native plants are four times more attractive to native bees and butterflies than exotics.

When I visit family in Texas, there appears to be a more dense population of Monarchs. A short video was sent to me recently of a garden in a small Texas town where Monarchs tumbled over one another as they flew from flower to flower. Such a pretty sight.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) has a project called Improving Working Lands for Monarch Butterflies that involves Pheasants Forever, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the National Fish &?Wildlife Foundation. They have collaborated to provide incentive payments to Iowa landowners for planting diverse stands of native grasses and wildflowers that benefit pollinators and other wildlife.

The Monarch RCPP project is funded through the NRCS-administered Conservation Stewardship Program. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis, but the deadline has passed for the current round of funding.

Josh Divan, Coordinating Wildlife Biologist with Pheasants Forever, says monarch plantings can be established in areas of unproductive cropland, used to square up oddly shaped fields, in sensitive areas such as buffers around waterways or wetlands, in pastures, and in other suitable locations. “The Monarch RCPP-CSP also supports new and existing conservation activities on cropland and pastures,” he said, “helping to reduce erosion, improve soil health, control invasive species, provide quality livestock forage, and make agricultural operations more resilient and productive.”

Iowa is one of the national leaders in CSP contracts and acres, says State Conservationist Kurt Simon.

Let’s help the Mighty Monarch survive.