Monarch Fest - July 8, 2017

Photo by
MEI member Alice Linhart
MONARCH FEST is quickly approaching at Indian Creek Nature Center.  It will be held Saturday, July 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in and around the Amazing Space Building located at 5300 Otis Road SE, Cedar Rapids.

Activities include butterfly releases, limited caterpillar adoptions, face painting, food, presentations, seed ball making and crafts! To see a tentative schedule for Monarch Fest CLICK HERE.

PLEASE VOLUNTEER!  Monarchs in Eastern Iowa members will be there volunteering and helping out with various activities.  You too can volunteer! Please click this link to sign up for volunteering,  The various volunteer opportunities are broken down into shifts so you can also have time to enjoy the day.

This will be a fantastic family event and an opportunity to learn about the amazing Monarch butterfly for all age levels.   Plan to come and enjoy the day!


Iowa and monarch butterflies

Here are some of the exciting things going on 

in Eastern Iowa to benefit Monarch Butterflies 

Today an official Monarch Waystation was established in Weed Park in Muscatine by Christine S. and Candi W. who are MEI members.  They planted butterfly weed, whorled milkweed, tropical and balloon milkweed and tall garden phlox for starters!

Muscatine is also in the process of establishing a 16 acre pollinator park!  "The park, said David Cooney of the Muscatine Pollinator Project (and also a members of MEI), will be a place where people can walk or ride, enjoying the flowers and wildlife—and there will be a lot of wildlife to enjoy. ... We’re looking at monarchs, we’re looking at honey bees, we’re looking at native bees, we’re looking at hummingbirds. .... We’re also going to do a pole that says, ‘Its 1,903 miles to Mexico,’ where the monarchs have to fly,” he said.  Read the article from the May 22, 2017 Muscatine Journal - "A haven for people and pollinators".


In Cedar Rapids an 18-acre pollinator zone will be planted on top of the old landfill locally known as "Mount Trashmore", thanks to a grant from Monarch Watch!

Last year  the Thousand Acre Plan was unveiled, in which the city of Cedar Rapids, Linn County and other local entities committed to convert underused public property into habitat for monarchs and other pollinating insects.   A driving force behind this is the Monarch Research Project and their Monarch Zones project.

IC Monarchs  The City of Iowa City, along with private citizens and other organizations, have been actively planting milkweed and other important nectar plants in order to better support the Monarch butterfly. Monarch Waystations are located at Wetherby Park, Hickory Hill Park, Hunter's Run, and at the Eastside Recycling Center.  In addition, Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton signed the National Wildlife Federation's Mayors' Monarch Pledge in 2016 to help raise awareness about declining Monarch populations. This pledge indicates a commitment from the City to help rehabilitate the Monarch population.

The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium is continuing its research and efforts to increase habitat for monarchs butterflies and other pollinators state-wide.

In addition there are many county parks and county conservation programs in Iowa focusing on the plight of the monarch butterfly, and creating more suitable habitat.  There are just too many projects to share here.

We are so happy the the word has spread and the momentum is picking up!  Iowa is right smack-dab in the middle of the main monarch butterfly breeding area, and with help from us all, maybe they can start to make a comeback.

Click the photo to enlarge it.


EcoFest seedball making a success

The milkweed seedball making tables were busy on April 22, 2017 at EcoFest in Cedar Rapids.
Photo credit:  MEI member, Larry Long
Milkweed Matters and Monarchs in Eastern Iowa sponsored a milkweed seedball making event at the 2017 EcoFest held at NewBo Market in Cedar Rapids on April 22nd.  Many people (and children) stopped by to help roll seedballs for Milkweed Matters' 2017 Seedball Initiative.

The seedballs will be distributed by the Milkweed Matters riding team during RAGBRAI to be tossed into wild areas all across Iowa.  The goal is to provide more milkweed upon which Monarch caterpillars can feed. In 2016 Milkweed Matters distributed about 50,000 seedballs!

For the Milkweed Matters 2017 RAGBRAI Initiative, Monarchs in Eastern Iowa is one of seven partner groups around the state holding seedball making events.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette posted a story about EcoFest that had some errors.  They did not mention Milkweed Matters involvement in co-hosting and wrongly said that Monarchs in Eastern Iowa (instead of Milkweed Matters) had distributed 50,000 seedballs.  We have sent a notice to them of the error.


Help Make Milkweed Seedballs

At the 2016 EcoFest we made 2500 milkweed seedballs!
Milkweed Matters and Monarchs in Eastern Iowa will be hosting a milkweed seedball making and information table at EcoFest in front of NewBo Market in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, April 22.  We invite you to stop by and roll a few seedballs for RAGBRAI to toss in wild areas as they cross Iowa.  Learn about how both groups are working to help the Monarch butterfly flourish.

Read more about Milkweed Matters Ragbrai Seedball initiative at  https://milkweedmatters.org/ragbrai/2017-2/

How to make seedballs

EcoFest at NewBo Market in Cedar Rapids
Saturday, April 22, 2017 - 10am to 4pm
Celebrate this Earth Day event in Eastern Iowa with live music, local vendors, artists and more!


Here they come!

Monarch butterflies are departing from their locations in Mexico for their long journey north.  Read about it at Journey North.  Also click on the migration map on the right to see where they are now.

Prepare for their arrival!

Many MEI members planted seeds late last fall that will begin growing as soon as spring conditions are right.  Others are or have started milkweed seeds indoors, in addition to other flowers that monarchs use for nectar.  Some are using seeds they collected last fall, and others are ordering seeds.

It is important to order seeds and plants that are from Iowa, or at least are native to your ecoregion.  Find your ecoregion from The Habitat Network pages by plugging in your zip code.  You can then see your ecoregion and scroll down the page for more resources.   See our Seed & Plant Sources page for suggestions on where to order. Also check our calendar (tabs above) for upcoming plant sales.

Here is an excellent brochure from Wildones.org with lists of flowers, shrubs and trees that benefit Monarchs.

Start a Monarch Waystation on your property.  Order a kit from Monarch Watch and be certified as a Waystation.  See details at Monarch Watch.

If you look for milkweed plants or plugs at local nurseries, make sure they are "clean" and are neonicotinoid free.  Also make sure they are native to your area.  Here is a list of milkweed native to Iowa.

While you're at it, plan to eliminate spraying your lawns and flowers with insecticides and herbicides.  Those dandelions and other spring "weeds" provide an early source of nectar for butterflies and bees.  Sprays are real killers to our Monarchs as well as to essential honey bees and native bees.  Be kind to all pollinators!


Our friend and MEI member, Kelly Guilbeau from Milweed Matters, will be the keynote speaker for a Sustainability & Self-Reliance Workshop on Saturday, Feb. 18th. She will be speaking about Milkweed Matters, what you can do to help monarchs, and how to make milkweed seed balls. There will also be a variety of other speakers on topics such as urban homesteading, backyard chickens, home dairy/cheese making, and a few others. More information and registration can be found by clicking the below link..


Winter sowing

Hopefully you have collected seed from milkweed varieties growing in your yard or in the wild, as well as from plants that provide nectar for monarchs.  If you don't have room in your home to grow seedlings for next year, consider winter sowing in containers.

Seeds  can also be sown directly into the soil but keep in mind that soil temperature should be below 50 degrees to avoid early germination, and before the soil freezes.

If you decide to winter sow, grow extra plants and SHARE with others!

Below is a copy of a post made last year about winter sowing, with some changes and additions.

Winter Sowing (also dormant sowing) is a propagation method used throughout the winter where temperate climate seeds are sown into protective vented containers and placed outdoors to foster a naturally timed, high percentage germination of climate tolerant seedlings.

This is a great way to start milkweed plants for Monarch butterflies, as well as nectar sources such as new england asters, purple coneflowers, etc. for planting next spring.  It provides natural cold stratification of the seeds and they will begin growing when the conditions are right.

Trudi Davidoff recommends sowing seed in miniature greenhouses (made from recycled water and milk jugs) and placing them outdoors.  Please visit the below links to find out more.
 and Step 2  http://monarchbutterflygarden.net/winter-sowing-milkweed-seeds-prepare-containers/
Here is a ,pdf brochure that explains Trudi's method

Other links:
Winter Sowing - A step by step guide from "Get Busy Gardening"
A Step to Step Guide to Winter Sowing from Bacman's - in the Minneapolis area

There are also a number of videos on YouTube about winter sowing from which to learn!

November and December are good months sow seeds on bare ground. Just make sure the soil temperature below 50 degrees but before the soil is frozen.  Here is a map from the Iowa State Extension that shows current soil temperatures. http://mesonet.agron.iastate.edu/agclimate/display.php?src=/agclimate/daily_pics/4in-temp-out.png

Strip off any sod, weeds or grasses. Cultivate the soil to a fine tilth, firm the soil by treading on it, and rake lightly. Sow the seed mixture (with fine sand for even distribution) at a rate of 1/8 oz per sq. Some people just spread the seed on bare ground and walk on it to ensure seed/soil contact.

When conditions are right in the spring, your seeds will germinate!