The item below comes from the Ohio Department of Transportation. Thanks to Ron Wiech for passing it along to us.
In 2014 the Geauga Park District mowed down and plowed a three-acre area of meadow in Swine Creek Reservation which for several years had been used as a tagging area in the annual Monarch butterfly census. Evidently, the current Parks management didn’t think the endangered Monarch is important enough to preserve their habitat within the parks, whereas the Department of Transportation is now attempting to mobilize a statewide volunteer force to create new habitat wherever possible.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is asking for the public’s help with a new campaign to plant milkweed along state highways to support Ohio’s monarch butterfly population.
Between Sept. 1 and Oct. 30, people can help the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative by gathering milkweed seed pods from established plants and dropping them off at collection stations around the state.
The seeds are to be planted along ODOT’s 19,000 miles of highway right-of-way statewide.
“Common milkweed is essential to the survival of monarch butterflies in Ohio,” Marci Lininger, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a prepared ODOT statement.
“Ohio is a priority area for monarchs. Fourth-generation monarch butterflies hatch in Ohio in late summer, migrate north to Canada, and then come back through Ohio once more in order to fly to Mexico for the winter,” Ms. Lininger said. “This same generation is also responsible for starting the life cycle all over again in the spring, laying the following year’s first generation of monarchs.”
“Planting milkweed and other native wildflowers on our roadsides benefit the pollinators who in turn benefit agriculture,” ODOT Director Jerry Wray said. “They also beautify our highways and reduce mowing costs — a double bonus for Ohio taxpayers.”
The Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative was formed in response to a 2014 petition to list the monarch butterfly as federally endangered. It is an educational campaign to inform landowners, farmers, government agencies, and the general public of the importance of pollinators to human food supplies and the habitats they need to survive.
Milkweed seed pods ideally are picked when they are dry and gray or brown in color. If the center seam pops with gentle pressure, the pods are ready for picking.
Pods should be stored in paper bags or grocery sacks so they stay dry, then placed in a cool, dry area until they can be delivered to a collection station. Collection stations are located at Ohio Department of Agriculture Soil and Water Conservation District offices in most counties.
Harvesting pods does not affect milkweed plant populations in established areas, according to ODOT. People harvesting pods should wear clothing appropriate for outdoors and consider wearing disposable gloves while picking and handling the pods, according to the ODOT release.