Milkweeds continue to increase monarch butterfly population

Libbie Randall - Staff
Milkweed plants are also home to several types of bees and other bugs. PHOTO BY LIBBIE RANDALL/THE PERRY CHIEF

Monarch butterflies are increasing in numbers in the area thanks to the efforts of the Dallas County Conservation Department and all those willing to help.

Milkweeds are a bug-attracted plant that can typically be seen in ditches all across Iowa. The most popular visitor of these plants is the monarch butterfly. Monarch population was recently very low in the surrounding areas partially because of the spraying of the plants done by the Iowa Highway Department and in other parts to other forms of eliminating milkweeds. For those who own land specifically for the Conservation Reserve Program, this became an issue very quickly.

Long-time CRP ground-regulator and Dallas County citizen Tedd Harney says the mass-spraying was a confusing matter in regards to the cause.

“It made no sense to me,” Harney sad. “[CRP] would pay me to have this ground and plant milkweed and butterfly seeds, but then it would all get sprayed.”

Since then, the Highway Department has transitioned from spraying the plants entirely to only spraying several areas of the ditches.

“I understand people want the ditches and their lawns to look clean and pretty,” Harney said. “Pretty is not what the butterflies want or need.”

Dallas County Conservation Board member Cindy Blobaum is also doing her part in raising awareness of this milkweed-attracted butterfly phenomenon.

Blobaum says now the Conservation Department has milkweed plants growing in almost every native area.

“[Milkweeds] are planted as part of a planting mix,” Blobaum said. “There are also several milkweed gardens that are being showcased to the public in the area.”

For those interested in learning more the Dallas County Conservation Board is also hosting an event on Monday, July 9.

“Milkweed Mondays” will be held every Monday through Aug. 6 from 8:30 - 9:30 a.m. at the Kuehn Conservation Area. Those who attend will be able look for monarch butterflies and caterpillars among the nine different kinds of milkweed plants within the area. Milkweed bug and beetle ladybugs spiders and bees and flies.

Blobaum says the department intends to use the plot as both a demonstration area and informal research project to offer interested people the best information about which milkweed plants might best serve their interests and needs.