Monarch butterflies are one of the most common wildlife images. From calendars, to wallpaper, TV commercials, to car decals, monarchs are featured almost everywhere. Their yearly migration is one of the most incredible events in nature. Thousands of monarchs travel south every year, visiting the exact same trees and meeting areas each time. Their trip back mimics the migration south, including the same pitstops. What is most incredible is that the butterflies congregating in the fall are not the same ones visiting the same areas in the spring! The monarchs are a large part of the ecosystem aside from being gorgeous. Monarchs really are one of the most impressive species we interact with.
Sadly, while their image makes it seem like they are as common as grass, they are reaching dangerously low population levels. In response to the declining population, members of the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health have decided to try a rather radical approach to improving the monarchs chance at resurgence. The university group partnered with RAGBRAI, or the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, to distribute milkweed seeds inside of balled up soil and compost. Scientists are creating these milkweed bombs and will be distributing them to the riders before they kick off their cross-state trip. By dropping the balls off in ditches, fields, and anywhere they happen to traverse, riders will help spread milkweed over a greater area. The plant is essential to the survival and spread of monarchs, and with around 2,000 pods being placed, even a fraction taking hold could make an immense difference in the monarchs population.
It’s fortunate that the population drop in the monarch, while horrible, was noticed and recognized early enough that repairs can be enacted now, and will likely be more successful than the quest to repopulate other endangered species with far lower populations. There are also a number of things you can do on your own to help protect and grow butterfly populations! It’s time to step up to protect these majestic creatures.Whizzco