Jenna Ladd | February 28, 2017
The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium released its statewide strategy for the conservation and advancement of the monarch butterfly on Monday.
The Iowa Monarch Conservation Strategy aims to recover monarch butterfly populations in Iowa and North America. Developed by the consortium-a group of more than thirty organizations including agricultural and conservation groups, agribusiness and utility companies, county associations, universities and state and federal agencies-the strategy provides necessary resources and information to advance the well-being of monarch butterflies in Iowa and across the continent.
A recent report found that the population of monarch butterflies that spend the winter months in Mexico decreased by 27 percent in 2016, primarily due to extreme weather events and the pervasive loss of the milkweed plant. Milkweed is the only plant in which female monarchs will lay their eggs as well as the primary food source for monarch caterpillars. According to the consortium, about 40 percent of monarchs that overwinter in Mexico come from Iowa and its neighboring states. In the last two decades, the total monarch population has declined by 80 percent.
Monarch butterflies provide vital ecosystem services including pollination and natural pest management. They also serve as a food source to larger animals such birds and bats.
Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp said, “We didn’t get to this point overnight, and we aren’t going to improve the population overnight. But we have a really strong group across many different areas of expertise working together to improve the outlook for the monarch in Iowa and beyond.”
The strategy provides scientifically-based conservation practices that include using monarch friendly weed management, utilizing the farm bill to plant breeding habitat, and closely following instruction labels when applying pesticides that may be toxic to the butterfly.
In June 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will determine whether or not to list the monarch butterfly as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
Wendy Wintersteen is dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University. She said, “This strategy is critical to rally Iowa agriculture, landowners and citizens to continue to make progress in restoring monarch habitat.”