Milkweed for Monarchs - Update
Monarch populations have decreased significantly, and current recovery plans call for billions of stems of milkweed to be established. You can help by collecting your milkweed seed this fall and support regional effort to restore Milkweed for Monarchs. TPE Executive Director Chris Kirkpatrick provides this update.Monarch butterfly populations have declined by nearly 80% over the past several decades. In 2014 the US Fish & Wildlife Service (US FWS) was petitioned to consider listing the monarch as an endangered species. The US FWS has until June 2019 to decide if the monarch will become listed. In anticipation of any listing decision, the states that make up the core monarch migration corridor from Mexico to Canada have created the Mid-American Monarch Conservation Strategy.
The overall goal of the strategy is to increase the amount of milkweed stems throughout the migration corridor in order to achieve viable over-wintering populations in Mexico. Last year the population was less than half of the goal for the monarch strategy, indicating that we need to further our efforts to establish milkweed stems throughout the upper Midwest. The Mid-American Monarch Conservation Strategy calls for 1.3 billion stems of milkweed to be established in the upper Midwest by 2038.
To achieve this goal, the 16 states in the core monarch migration corridor have agreed to a voluntary milkweed stem goal. In the upper Midwest: Illinois has committed to 1.5 million, Iowa to 1.6 million, Wisconsin 1.2 million, and Minnesota 1.9 million stems. This means a lot of milkweed needs to become established across the upper Midwest over the next 20 years for the monarch to have the best chance to recover.
To address this effort, The Prairie Enthusiasts is promoting the Milkweed for Monarchs program. In 2017 efforts were put forth to TPE members, partners, and the public were encouraged to help by collecting milkweed seed. These efforts resulted in 90 pounds of milkweed seed that went towards enhancing prairie plantings throughout the upper Midwest. This was an amazing start, however we have a long way to go to help get millions of milkweed stems established in the years ahead.
TPE's Milkweed to Monarchs initiative gives members and volunteers a Grassroots Conservation in Action approach to monarch recovery efforts. This is something practical, and that can be done this year, to contribute towards monarch regeneration. By collecting your milkweed seeds this fall, you will be making a difference and together we can work towards the milkweed stem goals by processing one milkweed seed pod at a time.
What we are asking people to do is:
- Collect milkweed seed pods by species
- Process the seed to remove the pod & husk
- Deliver the seed to TPE's office or send by mail
Timing is perfect to begin collecting milkweed pods this month, and it is by far the easiest time to clean the seed by hand. It is not absolutely necessary for you to clean your seed, if you can only pick your seed, but cannot have it processed, you can still help out. Processing the seed in bulk has costs, and the more seed that is cleaned by you helps go directly to restoration efforts in the region.
Any interested members, volunteers, or groups interested in picking and cleaning milkweed seed can contact Chris Kirkpatrick, Executive Director at 608-638-1873 or at email@example.com. Seed can be delivered in person or by mail to TPE's office at: 110 S. Main St., PO Box 824, Viroqua, WI 54665. To assist with seed cleaning options, we recommend you consider watching the following videos:
- Watch Bill Carter of Prairie Moon Nursery demonstrate how to effectively clean seed by hand during the month of September.
- See the seed processor that was used last year as one method to process seed, designed by Monarch Watch. Their directions to create a processor can be found here.
There are several issues involved with the Monarch population, but a decline in milkweed across the upper Midwest is likely a major factor. In addition, the butterflies need sites throughout the entire growing season to fledge their caterpillars in preparation for the final generation. This “super generation” of monarchs are hatching now and are preparing to migrate all the way to Mexico for the winter. In the spring they need to travel north, back to Texas and Oklahoma, to breed and lay eggs again. This first generation of monarchs is what arrive in the upper Midwest by early summer, and the cycle continues.
Thank you for all you do for the prairie and to support TPE in our mission to protect, manage and educate about prairie and oak savanna throughout the Midwest. You are an important species of the prairie too. Together we will make a big difference for the monarchs!