The once-familiar Monarch butterfly has experienced an unprecedented decline in population in recent years. All factors being relative, the primary reason for this dramatic decline is habitat loss due to land redevelopment for residential, commercial, and agricultural use. Specifically, we've removed or destroyed the one plant Monarch caterpillars REQUIRE for their survival: milkweed.
There are over 140 different species of milkweed (Genus Asclepias), but some are tougher, bigger, and more abundant than others. Here in Columbus, OH, our very own Franklin County Soil & Water Conservation District (FCSWCD) is spearheading an effort to collect the seeds of the common milkweed, Ascepias syriaca. Together with the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative, FCSWCD will use these seeds to create new habitat and forage for Monarch larvae.
How can YOU help? Collect the ripened seeds of common milkweed and bring the seeds to the FCSWCD office: 1404 Goodale Boulevard, Suite 100 Columbus, OH 43212
By the way, if you see large milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) hanging around your ripening seed pods, flick them off and place small rubber-bands around the unopened pods. The pods must stay on the plant until the seeds mature. Since these bugs eat the mature seeds, they're waiting for the pod to split open. Make sure you collect the seeds, not the milkweed bugs!
Top photo: one unripe and two ripe seed pods
Middle photo: three unripe (green) seed pods
Bottom photo: Large milkweed bug
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