The recent news from the World Wildlife Fund and Mexico's Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas on monarch wintering numbers was an eye opener - the butterflies covered an estimated seven acres of forest canopy in Mexico - less than half of last year's population. Experts estimate a long-term average of 15 acres of occupied forest canopy is necessary to sustain the eastern North America monarch population.
Already well on their way back to the Upper Midwest, the orange and black icon will again call Iowa home in the next four to six weeks.
Iowa fills an important role for monarchs hosting generation after generation through the summer until Mother Nature signals it's time to produce the Super Generation that will make the 3,000 mile journey back to Mexico for the winter.
Iowans can welcome the summertime residents back by including pollinator friendly plants as a part of their annual spring gardening and landscaping.
"This is an opportunity for people, individually, to help monarchs, and that can be as small as planting a flower pot on an apartment balcony or as large as new pollinator-focused prairie," said Karen Kinkead, coordinator of the Iowa Department of Natural Resource's Wildlife Diversity Program.
Kinkead recommended using local native seeds and plants that are better suited to Iowa's growing season and likely more readily available from local greenhouses. "It also serves as a way to support local small businesses," she said.
The current Iowa Monarch Conservation Strategy seeks to establish between 480,000 and 830,000 acres of monarch habitat by 2038, through voluntary, statewide conservation efforts based on the best available science.
"When we have perfect weather conditions, we can produce enough monarchs, but weather can also work against monarch production and survival and to compensate for that requires more production areas," Kinkead said. "We saw good egg production and adult numbers last year, but that didn't overcome bad weather between here and Mexico. We need great egg production."
Monarchs use different plants during different stages of its lifecycle and Kinkead suggests that a mixture of milkweed and native wildflowers be part of every planting, if possible.
Recommendations for Creating Habitat for Monarchs and Other Pollinators
1. Choose Native Plants- Iowa has a huge variety of native prairie and open woodland plants to choose from: they are beautiful, they are adapted to Iowa's soil and environment and they are old friends to our native pollinators.
2. Include Milkweed PLUS other species of wildflower. To provide food for both the caterpillar and adult stage you must include at least one species of milkweed plus a few other species of flowers. At a minimum, think about including a species of milkweed plus three species of wildflower (nine species total) that bloom during the early, middle and late portion of the summer. Throwing in a native grass or two rounds things out nicely. Variety is the spice of life and, in this case, has the best chance of attracting the most beneficial insects. Links to some species lists can be found
3. Be Patient especially if planting native plants. Prairie plants have huge root systems and most plants spend much of their energy in the first 1-3 years growing those roots. Once established they can concentrate on putting out showy flowers and lush foliage. You can speed the process up a little bit by using plugs rather than
4. Avoid Using Chemicals. Pesticides and herbicides can have negative impacts on monarchs and other beneficial insects so it's best to avoid their use entirely or if you must use them, to use them in as targeted a manner as possible, following the application instructions
5. Register your habitat with Grow.Fly at the Blank Park Zoo. and inspire others! ECCF allocates $15,000 to COVID-19 disaster fund
The Emmet County Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, has allocated $15,000 of its 2020 discretionary grant funding to the Emmet County COVID-19 Disaster Response Fund.
Grants from the disaster response fund will be administered in collaboration with organizations coordinating pandemic response efforts. Gifts can be made to the fund by going to cfneia.org/emmetcovidfund and clicking on the "Give Today" button. See more in Monday's edition of the Estherville News.
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