Illinois Monarch Project requests milkweed, pollinator habitat data

The monarch butterfly is not currently listed as an endangered species, but its status is reviewed on an annual basis. To track pollinator habitat in Illinois, the Illinois Monarch Project requests that individuals and organizations report habitats they’ve established at illinoismonarchproject.org. (Photo by Raelynn Parmely)

As rainy spring days turn to warmer summer weather, you’ll likely start to see flutters of orange dotting fields and gardens.

Pollinators are key players in agriculture and the monarch butterfly is no exception. Through collaborative efforts with the Illinois Monarch Project (IMP), Illinois Farm Bureau and county Farm Bureaus have continued to support the species.

“There’s a lot going on in the state of Illinois for pollinators,” said IFB Associate Director of Natural Resources Austin Omer, who serves as the organization’s representative with IMP.

“People are working together to promote pollinator health not just in the agriculture sector, but all across the state,” he said. “From urban landscapes to rural landscapes.”

Throughout the month of May, which is recognized as Monarch Month, Omer talked with RFD Radio Network each week about progress being made to protect the insects.

To date, county Farm Bureaus have established more than 25 demonstration and habitat projects in their communities.

IFB has also provided habitat signs to mark locations across the state where milkweed and other nectar-producing plants are located. While the idea of adding signs is simple, they provide tremendous educational opportunities.

“It’s important for agriculture to not only tell the story of what is happening in our fields for conservation, but also to explain and highlight that farms provide habitat in areas that we don’t use for production,” said Omer. “There’s value in those areas for biodiversity too.”

As monarchs migrate throughout the U.S. and into Mexico, they require a variety of plants within their habitat. During the early stages of their lifecycle, insects breed on and eat milkweed. As butterflies reach maturity, they require nectar-producing plants for energy.

Planting pollinator habitat for butterflies also benefits other species. It’s important to keep those insects in mind when creating a pollinator habitat.

IMP is collecting data to better understand the amount of milkweed currently planted in Illinois. This data is critical to better understanding the needs of monarchs in the state.

“Currently, the monarch is not listed under the Endangered Species Act, but it is undergoing an annual review as a candidate species,” said Omer. “So it’s very important that we track our progress in increasing and maintaining their habitat.”

Report milkweed you have planted on your property at illinoismonarchproject.org, or visit the website for more information. Following mowing guidelines can also keep pollinator habitats healthy and IFB has resources that can help.

“In the last several years, we’ve seen decreasing numbers of this iconic insect,” said Omer. “By working together to implement solutions, we can each do our part to grow the population.”