As fall approaches, eastern monarch butterflies are migrating through Ohio on their way to overwintering sites in Mexico, and milkweed seed pods are ready to be picked to help them in that amazing annual journey.
Monarchs travel between 50 and 100 miles per day, and that may cover several thousand miles in total, reports the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW) experts. By gathering dried milkweed pods this fall and planting the seeds, you can support next year’s monarchs.
Various species of milkweed are the sole host plants for monarch caterpillars. Each spring, eastern monarchs lay eggs on milkweed as they migrate north from Mexico. After several generations, monarchs reach their northernmost range in southern Canada. By the fall, a super-generation migrates all the way to southern overwintering sites.
Migrating monarchs rely on adequate food resources along their journey. Native flowers provide monarchs with the fuel needed to reach overwintering areas. Look for monarchs in the coming weeks in forests, fields, gardens and waterways as they migrate through Ohio. Migrants may travel individually or in groups.
Monarch butterflies are in decline across their range, as are many other pollinating insects, because of the loss of prairie and grassland habitat. One of the most important ways to help declining butterflies and other pollinating insects is by conserving tracts of unmown grasslands. The ODOW manages habitat on many of Ohio’s state wildlife areas to provide these grasslands that provide nectar-producing plants.
For those with an abundance of milkweed, the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI) is coordinating pod collection through local Soil and Water Conservation District locations. Go to ohiopollinator.org to find a nearby drop-off site.