Collect Milkweeds for Monarchs

Monarch butterflies have been in a period of extended population decline, but Holmes Soil & Water Conservation District is collecting milkweed pods to help increase monarch habitat.

Monarch butterflies have been in a period of extended population decline, but Holmes Soil & Water Conservation District is collecting milkweed pods to help increase monarch habitat.

I’m a nature geek. With the exception of ticks, mosquitoes and biting flies, I can pretty much find something cool about all things wild. So I am pretty excited about our district participating in a statewide effort coordinated by the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI) to increase monarch butterfly habitat by collecting milkweed seed pods from September 1-October 30.

The collection station will be located at our office at 62 W. Clinton St, Millersburg. The collection receptacle will be at the back door of the building, allowing participants to drive through the parking lot to deposit them any time, regardless of whether the office is open or not. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Division of Wildlife has an excellent resource called Milkweeds & Monarchs that outlines all kinds of information about monarchs and their host plants.

According to the guide, the wintering population in Mexico was at its lowest recorded level in the winter of 2013-2014. The two next lowest wintering population levels were recorded within the last decade. Experts estimate that the eastern population of monarchs has diminished by 90% over the past 20 years.

I used to see monarch caterpillars regularly on the butterfly weed in our garden, and about five years ago my son and I watched several complete their life cycle, but we have not seen any in years. I also look at the few, lonely milkweed plants along the road that managed to escape a mower for eggs and larvae when I take walks, and have been alarmed to not see any at all this year.

Maintaining adequate milkweed populations is essential for monarch butterfly populations to continue to survive in Ohio. Shown here is common milkweed.

Maintaining adequate milkweed populations is essential for monarch butterfly populations to continue to survive in Ohio. Shown here is common milkweed.

Common and swamp milkweed are essential to the survival of Monarch butterflies in Ohio. Ohio is a priority area for monarchs. This generation of monarchs are also responsible for starting the life cycle all over again in the spring, and laying the following year’s first generation of monarchs in late summer.

Holmes SWCD will serve as a collection point for milkweed pods from both common & swamp (pictured above) milkweed in an effort to enhance habitat for monarch butterflies.

Holmes SWCD will serve as a collection point for milkweed pods from both common & swamp (pictured above) milkweed in an effort to enhance habitat for monarch butterflies.

Seed pods from common or swamp milkweed should be collected when the pods are dry and gray or brown in color. If the center seam pops with gentle pressure, they can be picked. It is best to collect pods into paper bags or paper grocery sacks. Avoid using plastic bags because they can attract moisture and allow mold to develop. Store seeds in a cool, dry area until you can deliver to the closest pod collection area. It is recommended to wear disposable gloves when picking and handling pods.

Harvesting seed pods from milkweed plants will not have any effect on the population of milkweed in established areas. This is a great family activity and a chance to get kids engaged in the outdoors. For more information about the milkweed collection program, call Holmes SWCD at 330-674-SWCD, ext. 3.


MICHELLE WOOD, DISTRICT PROGRAM ADMINISTRATOR

Michelle Wood oversees the day to day operations of the district and the diverse activities offered to promote clean water and healthy soil. With a lifelong passion for the outdoors and a background in communications, she appreciates the conservation district grassroots model which enables the local board and staff to create programs that meet the conservation needs of Holmes County.  Michelle is a member of several statewide committees, including the ODNR Parks Advisory Council and the Clean Ohio Fund Natural Resources Assistance Council.  Contact Michelle at 330-674-2811 or at mwood@co.holmes.oh.us