AMES, Iowa – Across Iowa and the Midwest, monarch butterflies are preparing for their annual migration to their winter home in central Mexico.
To gather energy for the long journey, adult monarchs feast on nectar from late-blooming plants such as boneset, goldenrod and aster species. Conservation practices that include planting diverse habitat, in addition to milkweed, were highlighted at the recent ISU Monarch Conservation field day.
“I think monarchs are a signal to us about the ecology around us,” said Carolyn Ross, field day attendee from Ogden, Iowa. “I think what’s also amazing is how far they migrate.”
Roughly 40 percent of all monarch butterflies that spend the winter in Mexico are estimated to come from Iowa and neighboring Midwestern states. Over the past two decades, the monarch population has declined by approximately 80 percent.
How can Iowans support the recovery of this iconic species? The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium is collaborating with agricultural and conservation organizations, agribusiness and utility companies, county associations, universities and state and federal agencies to improve monarch habitat in Iowa.
“Expanding habitat for the monarch butterfly in Iowa will play a major role in the recovery of the species,” said Sue Blodgett, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology at Iowa State University. “Conservation efforts such as diverse plantings with native milkweed species can benefit all pollinators, including monarchs.”
Publication “Monarch Seed Mix – High Diversity” (ENT 47) is available through the ISU Extension Store. The seed mix, developed by the Iowa State University Monarch Research Team, has been planted at ISU Research and Demonstration Farms, as well as on private land in cooperation with farmers and landowners throughout the state.
ISU Extension and Outreach will be participating in several events across the state this fall where more information about conservation opportunities for the monarch butterfly and other pollinators can be found.