Project aimed at helping monarch butterflies

The Ohio Division of Wildlife has been busy harvesting milkweed pods has part of a pilot project to create more sustainable habitats for the iconic monarch butterfly.

DOW biologists at the Olentangy Research Station recently collected a truckload of milweed pods from a Delaware County farm for separation and germination of seeds for future plantings in partnership with the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative, Ohio Department of Transportation, and American Electric Power. 

Female monarch butterlies use milkweed plants to lay their eggs. In Ohio, there are a baker's dozen of milkweed species known to be used by the monarch as host plants, according to the Ohio DNR.

In May, the Obama administration announced a national strategy through its Pollinator Health Task Force to increase the monarch butterfly population in the U.S., protect its annual migration, and restore millions of acres for pollinators through public and private initiatives.

The DOW is working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to develop monarch butterfly habitats, according to Jeff Burris, DOW private land administrator. 

"It's exciting," Burris said. "Everybody wants to see good things happening for the monarch."

The goal of Ohio's collaborative initiative, which includes state soil and water conservation boards, is to harvest milkweed seeds and put them back into statewide conservation projects, according to Marci Lininger, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist, based in Columbus. The overarching goal is help all pollinators, Lininger said. 

Efforts are underway to include Ohio State University, Wright State University, and potentially the Toledo Zoo to help process milkweed pods by detaching seeds from silky filament called coma, Lininger said. 

"We are trying to get the word out to get conservaton on the ground," Lininger said.

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