BROOKVILLE — Did you participate in the 2016 common milkweed pod collection? It is happening again this year, and the Montgomery Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) is again a drop-off point for the milkweed pods.
If we want a sky filled with the wings of the monarch butterfly, it is going to take healthy habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. That is why hundreds of Ohioans worked together last fall to collect approximately 200 lbs. of common milkweed seeds, totaling over 19 million seeds.
The massive statewide seed collection effort was spearheaded by the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI), which is working to get the word out about why monarch butterflies are disappearing and to help partners create monarch habitat.
Milkweed is the only food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars. The disappearance of milkweed across the U.S. has contributed to the 80 percent decline of the Eastern Monarch Butterfly population over the last 20 years. Regionally adapted milkweed grows and blooms when monarchs need it most. The dried husks of the common milkweed pods are a treasure chest filled with biological gems – viable milkweed seeds. The decrease in local milkweed plants makes local seed collection efforts all the more important.
“If we want monarchs, we need to protect their awe inspiring multigenerational migration to and from Mexico,” explains Marci Lininger, OHPI Coordinator and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services Biologist. “That means more milkweed across monarch habitat and speaks to the Initiative’s motto ‘All you can, where you can’.”
All of the seed collected will be used to establish new plantings to create additional habitat for Monarch butterflies across Ohio.
That motto means the help of someone who can grab a few milkweed pods near where they live or commute is valuable, as well as the help of someone who has the time and know-how to collect many grocery bags full of pods.
In this effort, truly every little (or large) bit helps. Make sure that before you collect seed, you become familiar with common milkweed to avoid harvesting pods from similar plants such as hemp dogbane and swamp milkweed. Locate common milkweed stands for seedpod collection in areas such as pastures, meadows, along railroad tracks, along bike paths, agricultural field margins, vacant land, cultivated gardens, and parks.
Establish ownership of the land and make sure to get landowner permission for monitoring and collecting the seedpods. Arrange for the owner to conserve the stand until the seedpods are ripe and ready to harvest. Also, make sure the seeds inside the pod are mature. Seedpods from common milkweed should be collected when the pods are dry and gray or brown in color. If the center seam pops with gentle pressure, they can be harvested. It is best to store pods in paper bags because in plastic bags moisture can collect and allow mold to develop. Store the seedpods in a cool, dry place.
When collecting, please note the date and county of collection on the paper sack, and then bring them to the Montgomery SWCD office between September 1 and October 30. The office is located at the corner of Amity Road and Diamond Mill Road, at 10025 Amity Road, Brookville, Ohio 45309, and office hours are Monday – Friday from 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Please visit www.MontgomerySWCD.org or call (937) 854-7645 with questions for the Montgomery SWCD. Thanks for being one of the many partners in this exciting project to return the monarchs to the skies.