In an another effort to bolster a declining monarch butterfly population, Kansas University’s Monarch Watch program is unveiling a plan to spread milkweed plants across the country.
Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch, said the effort would include volunteers collecting milkweed seeds and sending them to Monarch Watch, which will then put the seeds in seed mixes targeted for restoration projects. It’s hoped the seeds could be more widely distributed so more people can plant milkweeds.
The group is focusing on restoring 19 milkweed species, specific to each region of the country where they grow naturally. A centralized website lists milkweed species by state and, eventually, Taylor said he will offer specific information broken down by county, too. Details about how people can help will be included on that site in the future.
The organization already has helped create more than 4,000 monarch waystations, with personal gardens featuring plants that are friendly to monarch caterpillars and butterflies.
But Taylor said that in order to save the migration, plants must become repopulated in wild areas along roadsides and in fields. Those plant populations have become threatened because of development and herbicides, he said.
“We have to mitigate this situation, or the (monarch) population will continue to go down, down, down,” Taylor said.
Priya Shahani is program coordinator for the Monarch Joint Venture project at the University of Minnesota, which has collaborated with Monarch Watch — among numerous other agencies and organizations — on projects in the past. She said Taylor’s project was an important one for her organization’s goals, including preserving the butterflies’ migration.
“We’re excited that this work could provide habitats for monarchs,” as well as other pollinators, she said.