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Partnership formed to increase pollinator habitat
by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · August 10th, 2017

A celebration/forum was held on July 22, which announced a new program to help Monarch butterfly recovery and all pollinators in Linn County. A partnership of a number of entities has been formed. Those involved in the partnership are the Monarch Research Project, Linn County Engineering, and the Adopt a Roadway program sponsored by the Secondary Road Department and Roadside Vegetation Management group.

The meeting, held at the Monarch Research site on Lakeside Rd., Marion, consisted of remarks from a number of people, including County Supervisor Brent Oleson, Clark McLeod of the Monarch Research group, and others, such as farmers and people representing colleges, Scouts, and groups which have already adopted roadsides.

Linn County has more than a thousand miles of roadside. These areas are perfect for planting milkweed, which helps the Monarch butterfly, and also other plants which help other pollinators. Milkweed is hard to start, but once it grows, it will come back year after year.

The plan involves communicating and getting the buy-in of a group. Then, that group can contact the Monarch Research Project and get information (email Jim Hoffman at

The next step is to plan a group outing sometime between November 1 and 15. The Monarch Research Project will provide milkweed seed which the group can pick up. The group can then go to their right-of-way (ROW), rake a patch, drop seed and stomp it in. They can collect trash at the same time and then move on to the next patch.

The seeds are planted at such a late date as they like to overwinter.

Why is this so important? First, milkweed is the only plant upon which Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs. However, humans have removed pollinator habitat in many ways. Among those mentioned were employing intense farming practices and using sprays and herbicides, as well as planting genetically modified or treated seeds.

One website also cited loss of overwintering habitat in Mexico and extreme weather events. ["Conservation Strategy for the Eastern Monarch Butterfly in Iowa," Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium]

At the meeting, people were directed to packets they received for a quick review of Adopt a Roadway locations in Linn County. It was pointed out that there are lots of opportunities to expand. Keep in mind that a person or group wanting to adopt a roadway needs to apply for a permit.

The Monarch Research Project has what it calls MRP's Three 'Moon Shots' or goals. These goals are:

Reestablish the Monarch populations each fall.

Complete the current 1,000-acre plan and add up to 9,000 more acres.

Be a model of success.

It also was mentioned that annual county-wide Monarch population surveys are important. And Monarchs are being tagged, so it is possible to study their flights.

A wide array of helpful materials was available to those who attended the forum. Among those were three leaflets - Landowners and Roadsides, Iowa's Mowing Law for Roadsides, and Roadsides for Bees & Butterflies. [University of Northern Iowa, Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management (IRVM), Iowa's Roadside Resource]

Another booklet called The World Beneath Your Feet, by Mark Müller was also available, funded by the Iowa Living Roadway Trust Fund. It gives a close and insightful look at soil and roots.

Two spiral-bound books - Iowa Wetland Seedling Guide and Prairie Seedling and Seeding Evaluation Guide - were also provided.

And last, but not least, were many posters which are extremely informative and attractive. Among the topics are the following: Bees; The value of roadsides; Butterflies and moths; and Monarchs and milkweeds. These were created by the Iowa Living Roadway Trust, Xerces Society and Trees Forever.

The following posters were in a group called Jewels of the Prairie. They are from the Iowa Living Roadway Trust. They show birds, butterflies and moths, plants, and other kinds of animals in particular prairie areas which include oak savanna, wet prairie, dry prairie, mesic prairie (medium moisture, quickly turned into cropland), and blooming heights (native prairie species)

One of the "jewels" group posters lists the blooming dates of prairie plants from April through September with illustrations of the flowers and their names. These "jewels" posters were illustrated by Mark Müller.

A future meeting is in the works and will be announced in an upcoming issue.

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