COLUMBUS – The iconic monarch butterfly is vanishing from backyards throughout Ohio and the country. One way residents can ensure future generations of monarch butterflies continue to visit flower gardens throughout our state is by protecting native milkweed plants, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
Every year in the fall, monarch butterflies across the eastern U.S. and Canada begin a 3,000-mile-long journey down to wintering grounds in Mexico. In the spring, these same butterflies head back north, and delight us with their presence once again. However, this amazing journey would not be possible without milkweed, a group of plants critical to the survival of the monarch butterfly. As butterflies, monarchs can feed on the nectar of a number of different flowering plants, but as caterpillars, monarchs are entirely dependent on the availability of milkweed.
Monarch caterpillars hatch from eggs laid on milkweed plants and feed on the leaves of the plant as they grow. If these plants are mowed, removed or sprayed with pesticides or herbicides, the caterpillars will not survive. Protecting these plants, especially during the egg-laying period from July through September, helps both monarch butterflies and caterpillars continue their life cycle and ultimately results in more monarch butterflies that can complete their journey to Mexico and back.
In the past, milkweed was viewed as a toxic weed. Today, we know that milkweed is a very important group of native plants, which helps support many species of wildlife, including monarch butterflies. People can learn more about ways to help ensure these beautiful butterflies are around for generations to come by visiting the Monarch Joint Venture at: monarchjointventure.org.
Landowners who want to help by creating habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators are encouraged to contact an ODNR Division of Wildlife private lands biologist at their district office by calling 800-WILDLIFE or by visiting wildohio.gov.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.