PALMYRA, Mo. | Monarch butterflies are vital pollinators that have been dying out due to a loss of habitat and harsh weather conditions. But families, clubs and other volunteers can bring portions of the habitat back to life with nectar-rich plants like milkweed.
Milkweed is a key part of the monarch butterfly's habitat and attracts other pollinators like honeybees. It's known as a host plant — the only food source monarch larvae can survive on. Mature monarch butterflies need other pollen sources, too — which benefits other pollinators. The University of Missouri Extension reported monarch butterfly populations declined 90% during wintering since 1988. The 4-H Monarch Habitat Demonstration Mini-Grant Project and the USDA's Missouri Natural Resources Conservation Service monarch butterfly conservation efforts are among programs aimed at restoring the natural habitat for monarch butterflies, and local residents can contribute to the effort as well.
University of Missouri Extension staff, Master Naturalists and members of the Master Gardener Club Chapters like the Salt River Master Gardener Club can help with finding native milkweed varieties and other nectar-rich plants for a well-balanced habitat for pollinators.
Michael Powell, with the Salt River Master Gardener Club, said he and fellow club members plant milkweed each spring in locations such as near the Mark Twain Interpretive Center. Fellow club member Daniel Getman provides the ready-to-plant milkweed from local growers to several area chapters. Getman recommends people who want to find out more about the monarch butterfly's preferred habitat and the right varieties of milkweed and other nectar-rich plants can visit the Monarch Joint Venture website at www.monarchjointventure.org and browse its milkweed and wildflower vendor map.
Jennifer Schutter, University of Missouri Extension field specialist in horticulture,will teach a Master Pollinator Stewardship Program course beginning August 31, showing people how to have a “pollinator-friendly yard.” She will do the instruction on Zoom each Monday, and the class will meet on Wednesdays outside the Adair County Extension office, looking at gardens and their flowers and the insects — so they can find out which insects are pollinators and find out which plant certain pollinators prefer. Schutter said students will be able to install the right flowers for the pollinators they want to attract, and make sure sun-loving flowers are in a sunny location and shade-loving plants don't receive too much sunlight.
“We're going to talk a lot about landscape design and how to design your landscape to attract the pollinators,” Schutter said.
Although her class deadline has passed, Schutter said an August 31 class is being taught in an all-online format in Kansas City, making it accessible to students across the state.
The 4-H Monarch Habitat Demonstration Mini-Grant Project is a partnership between Missouri 4-H, the Missouri Department of Conservation and GrowNative! Retailers with funding through the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation. The program provides $50 mini-grant vouchers for 4-H members and loved ones, to pay for up to one-half of the cost for planting each 100 square feet of monarch habitat gardens that meet MDC specifications.
Also, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provides monarch butterfly conservation efforts, working with farmers in Missouri and neighboring states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas andWisconsin.Farmers plant milkweed and other pollinator-friendly plants in areas like pastures, field borders and buffers around waterways or wetlands.
More information is available by calling the University of Missouri Extension Marion County office at 573-769-2177 or Michael Powell at 573-248-4425.