NORTH IOWA OUTDOORS: Time to Plant the Milkweed

Iowa State University researchers say the largest population of monarch butterflies in more than a decade could be headed to Iowa and the Midwest later this spring, prompting a good news, bad news scenario. Steve Bradbury, an ISU professor of natural resource ecology, says some 225,000,000 adult monarchs may arrive in the next month or so and they’ll need more milkweeds on which to breed.

Iowans in rural and urban areas are encouraged to create milkweed habitats, as that’s the only place the important crop pollinators will lay their eggs.

If the state wants to maintain higher numbers of monarchs, it will need to add a half a million to a million acres of habitat over the next ten to 20 years. Habitat loss and pesticide use have caused monarch populations to drop over the past decade. In recent years, Iowa’s cities, farmers and individual Iowans have joined to create or preserve habitat that’s vital to monarchs, including the cultivation of nectar plant gardens.

Bradbury says expanding monarch habitat in Iowa will play a major role in the recovery of the species.

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