Transitioning to Pollinator Habitat the Focus of Statewide Report

Four-year study looks at the steps involved with establishing a quality pollinator habitat in Iowa

July 29, 2020, 1:04 pm | Dana Schweitzer

AMES, Iowa – Converting grasslands to pollinator habitat takes a well thought out plan. A new report from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach helps landowners understand the steps involved and the best practices.

“Enhancing Monarch Butterfly Conservation in Iowa” is a 10-page report that summarizes four years of field, greenhouse, and lab demonstrations and research to provide recommendations for converting grass-dominated sites to pollinator habitat in Iowa and the upper Midwest.

pollinators.A team from the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, ISU Extension and Outreach and United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service planted and evaluated plots over four years and assessed native plant density, diversity and presence of monarch butterfly adults and larvae. Project results and landowner guidance for best management practices to establish native habitat are provided. Support for this project was provided, in part, through a USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant.

“The report covers the planting and preparation of high-diversity habitat and includes topics like selecting your site, having a good sense of what you need to do to minimize weed pressure, and using a variety of milkweed and native forb species for monarch adults and other pollinators” said Dana Schweitzer, program coordinator for the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium.

The report offers seven steps to guide the transition, beginning with site preparation, including mowing and removal of grass residue in late summer, application of herbicide treatments to minimize weed pressure, and planting a native seed mix in the late fall. The report also provides guidance on managing a site over the next two years post-plant.

According to Schweitzer, planning should be done at least a year in advance and include guidance from a natural resources professional, in order to account for all the variables and ensure a successful transition.

The report is compiled from projects across Iowa, using information from private landowners and the Iowa State University research farms. Additional year-by-year results are summarized in Iowa State research farm reports available at no cost from the ISU Parks Library digital repository.

For more information, contact Steve Bradbury, professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State, at or 515-294-7315.

Schweitzer can be reached at or 515-294-9227.


Original photo: Butterflies.

About the Authors: