PREBLE COUNTY — Monarch butterflies are easily recognized by almost everyone. Did you know that monarch caterpillars feed solely on milkweed plants? The presence of milkweed in our area is essential for monarchs, because they hatch in Ohio and surrounding areas in the summer, before migrating to Mexico for the winter.
Due to the drastic decline in the population of the monarch butterfly, the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI) is seeking help to collect and drop off common milkweed seed pods at collection stations around the state. The seeds will be used to establish new plantings and create additional habitat for the monarch butterfly throughout Ohio in the coming years.
It has been petitioned to add monarchs to the endangered species list. A goal has been set for increasing population numbers by 2020, and if not met, it is likely that monarchs would be listed as endangered. If this should happen, regulations for protecting milkweed may be put into place related to mowing and herbicide application. More stringent insecticide guidelines may be implemented as well. The Milkweed Pod Collection program was started to prevent further decline of the monarch, as well as the previously mentioned potential regulations.
Seed pods 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 are ready to be picked. Pods should be collected before they open up, as once this happens, seeds may be damaged by the giant milkweed bug. To prevent pods from popping open, a rubber band can be placed around unripe pods until they are ready to harvest.
It is best to collect pods in paper bags or paper grocery sacks. Avoid using plastic bags because they can attract moisture and allow mold to develop. Store seeds in a cool, dry area until delivering them to collection bins. It is recommended to wear disposable gloves when picking and handling pods. Harvesting pods from established plants will not have an effect on future milkweed populations.
From now through Oct. 30, help collect milkweed pods and drop them off at the Preble Soil and Water Conservation District office. A collection bin is located in the front lobby at 1651 N. Barron St., Eaton.
Preble SWCD is located in the Eaton Center between Tractor Supply and China Wok. The lobby is open from 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Anna Smith is Preble SWCD Outreach Coordinator. She can be reached at 937-456-5159.