Monarchs are all the craze! Rightfully so, as their migration pattern is a true expression nature which is to be appreciated by the most layperson.
Monarchs and Milkweeds
Species of milkweed plants are responsible for the butterflies’ food source during early stages of life. The number of milkweed plants has been negatively affected by many cultural practices throughout multiple industries. Therefore, numerous initiatives have been developed throughout North America to plant milkweeds in areas such as: roadway medians, flower beds, school yards, etc .
There are numerous species of milkweeds throughout North America. However, the availability of many of the species of milkweed seed has troubled the conservation and restoration communities and their respective initiatives to plant milkweeds. There are only a few milkweed species that can economically be produced, and therefore, be offered on the market. This creates a problem for some of the areas within the migration path…that problem is: there are no seeds of the region-specific milkweed species for the given area.
No Milkweed? No Problem
So, if there is no milkweed seed available for your region what do you do? Chris Helzer, Nature Conservancy’s Director of Science in Nebraska, has a great blog related to other necessary strategies of Monarch habitat conservation. These necessary strategies include ensuring that nectar-rich native forb species are available for adult feeding throughout the migration.
Chris says, “In addition [to planting milkweeds], protecting and restoring the wildflower-rich grasslands and other natural areas that provide food for adult monarchs, as well as for thousands of bee and other pollinator species, is also vitally important.” Furthermore, “A healthy prairie with a diverse wildflower community is invaluable to bees and other pollinators, and also provides nectar resources needed by monarch butterfly adults. If that prairie contains vibrant populations of milkweed species that provide egg-laying habitat to monarchs, that’s even better. Many prairies don’t currently have strong milkweed populations. Some milkweed species are not strong competitors in a tight-knit plant community, and certain grazing and other management practices tend to further discourage milkweeds. Over the next several years, I am hoping to learn more about how to make prairies support stronger milkweed/monarch populations. Hopefully, we and others can help make North American prairies even better contributors to the survival of monarch butterflies.”
Therefore, it is important to recognize native, natural prairies as a function of Monarch habitat sustainability. You can read Chris’s full article at:https://prairieecologist.com/2016/03/01/monarch-conservation-strategies/