Monarch Butterflies and More

Monarch on Liatris asperaRepeated threats to the survival of bees, and the decade-long decline in monarch butterfly populations have attracted widespread concern. The TPC is already working to restore the necessary habitats of these important and beloved insects:

Building capacity for native seed production
Over the last 18 years, Natural Selections has released 36 species of native nectar plants for commercial seed producers, and another 19 grass and sedge species that also support native pollinators, such as skippers. The visionary, sustained support of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Living Roadway Trust Fund has made this possible. New efforts in partnership with LRTF, the Iowa DNR’s Prairie Resource Center, and Monarch Joint Venture, are developing five species of milkweed and a prime, late-summer nectar species, Meadow Blazingstar for eventual release. Natural Selections tackles the essential agronomic/horticultural issues related to the production of wild species by answering questions about source populations, seed germination, weed control, field conditions for maximum yield, seed harvest and processing. We share this hard-won knowledge for the benefit of tallgrass prairie restorations across the region.

Distributing native seed
The Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management program distributes more native, source-identified seed per year--and verifies its planting--than any other program nationally.  These roadside plantings include swamp and butterfly milkweed, plus grasses and dozens of species of nectar plants, feeding wildlife all season long. The diverse mixtures help to ensure that the road right-of-way resists erosion, intercepts blowing snow, resists weed invasion and remains functional for many years. High diversity = high performance.

Expanding habitat
The TPC Restoration and Research program continues to add pollinator and monarch butterfly habitat to city gateway plantings, churches, schoolyards, campus lawns, home landscaping and farms. The Plant Iowa Native program is working with retail nurseries to help meet public demand for native landscaping plants. The Prairie on Farms project is extending habitat to prairie strips within crop fields. The Prairie Energy Project explores the use of diverse prairie plantings for biomass fuels to partially replace coal and other fossil fuels. Funding from Monarch Joint Venture, 

Applying science, serving practitioners
We conduct and publish applied research on seed mixes, planting techniques and more to answer practitioners’ questions. Training videos, workshops, technical publications, and focused meetings provide professional development opportunities for those who plant and manage prairie. We host regional and national meetings (see the Iowa Prairie Conference) to support and encourage the scientific community. See our recent Monarch Joint Venture Webinar on establishment of monarch habitat, with TPC's Kristine Nemec and Laura Jackson.

Working strategically
The Tallgrass Prairie Center is a partner and steering committee member of Monarch Joint Venture. Guided by the North American Monarch Conservation Plan, MJV partners work in a coordinated way to address priorities for research, education and habitat restoration. This group has been advising federal land management agencies and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on habitat restoration strategies for pollinators and the monarch butterfly, in response to the Presidential Memorandum on Pollinator Recovery. In 2014, TPC Director Laura Jackson participated in meetings at the Chicago Botanical Garden in Illinois, the US Geological Survey’s Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis in Fort Collins, CO and the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia. We are also members of the newly-formed Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium.

Engaging students
Pollinator and monarch butterfly conservation is reaching University of Northern Iowa students through classroom instruction, research experiences and employment at the Center.

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Monarch Butterfly Migration Map