Keep your eye out

Thanks to Cassie M. for her photos of a roost near Lone Tree, Iowa

We are nearing peak migration, which is mid-September, for monarch butterflies traveling south through Iowa toward Mexico.  Monarch butterflies only migrate during the day. They come down at night and gather in clusters. A cluster of butterflies is called a roost or a bivouac.

Read more at Journey North - Why Do Monarchs Form Overnight Roosts During Fall Migration?

There have been several roosts of monarch butterflies posted in our group. 

 - At the Monona Butterfly Gardens in Monona, Iowa, Clayton County.

-  In West Des Moines, IA

 - Southeast of Lone Tree, IA

100s of monarchs were seen in a field that was being mowed in Ames, IA

 9/14 - hundreds of monarchs observed in a roost in Pella, IA

 Keep your eye out for monarch butterfly roosts in the early evening. You might get lucky!    


Rear them right

Photo credit to members Mark and Janna from Marion.
Monarch butterflies are back in Iowa and our members are HAPPY to return to their routine of finding eggs and raising caterpillars into mature monarch butterflies. Many members have also increased their plantings of milkweed and native pollinator plants and are happy to start seeing the blooms.

Now is a good time to review the "best practices" for raising monarchs to be healthy and strong.

(Copied from a previous post quoting Monarch Watch.)

The migration to Mexico is a strong selective force.
It eliminates the weak ... those with diseases ... the undersized ,,, and those with genetic and other deficiencies.

It also eliminates those that have not received the environmental cues that properly trigger diapause and the orientation and directional flight characteristics of the migration.


1. Rear larvae under the most natural conditions possible.
"In other words, rearing outdoors, on porches, in pole barns, open garages, etc., would likely produce better results than rearing in an air–conditioned kitchen, spare bedroom or similar space."

2. Provide an abundance of living or fresh–picked and sanitized foliage to larvae.  ..."raising the monarchs on living plants–potted or in the ground–is likely to produce the largest monarchs, provided that the monarch larvae have an abundance of foliage to feed on at all times. Cut foliage in the form of leaves also works well, but the leaves have to be fresh and abundant relative to the numbers of larvae in each container."

3. Provide clean rearing conditions.
 ... Containers should be cleaned each day once the larvae reach the 4th instar.
 ... Foliage should be sanitized.

"To avoid passing the monarch disease Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (O.e. or OE) from outdoor monarchs to reared monarchs, both the living and cut foliage can be sanitized using a 10% bleach solution with a drop or two of liquid soap added. After soaking in the bleach solution for two minutes, the leaves should be rinsed thoroughly with clean water and patted dry before being fed to larvae."

"Living plants can be sprayed with the bleach solution and then rinsed. If you are using cut stems with leaves intact, they can be cleaned the same way. In that case, be sure to cut the stems under warm water before placing them in vases, etc. The warm water keeps the latex vesicles from closing down the transport of water to the leaves. Cut stems work to feed larvae, but they can go limp and be less suitable as a food source than cut leaves."

4. Plan the rearing so that the newly–emerged monarchs can be tagged early in the migratory season (10 days before to 10 days after the expected date of arrival of the leading edge of the migration in your area. [MEI NOTE: The leading edge in Iowa is around September 8th, so that would mean tagging August 30 through September 18th.]

5. Tag the butterflies once the wings have hardened and release them the day after emergence if possible.

Also, read and learn about "Monarch Annual Cycle: Migrations and the number of generations", a blog post from Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch.


Linn County, Iowa - A place for pollinators

We who live in Linn County, Iowa are fortunate that we have a progressive program to develop pollinator habitat for monarchs and pollinators!  Please follow the below links to learn more!

From:  http://www.linncounty.org/1345/1000-Acres-Pollinator-Initiative
"The 1,000 Acres Pollinator Initiative is a public/private partnership in which Linn County Conservation, has partnered with the Monarch Research Project (MRP), Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation, and the Marion Parks Department. This collaborative effort aims to restore 1,000 public land acres to a diverse native prairie habitat (Pollinator Zones) within five years through private funding. This primary goal is to restore significant monarch and pollinator habitat throughout the communities of Linn County, Iowa through a collaborative public/private partnership that engages governmental, business, educational, non-profit, and citizen sectors of the community."

  ..... In the first three years of the initiative (2017-2019), 802 of the 1,000 acres have been installed with a funding level of about $630,000 provided primarily by the Monarch Research Project through private donations and grants on over 400 acres on Linn County Conservation managed areas"

The Linn County 1,000 Acres Pollinator Initiative is a recipient of the 2019 Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) Excellence in Action Award, a competitive awards program that seeks to recognize innovative county government employees, programs, and projects. The awards were presented during a ceremony at the ISAC Annual Conference in Des Moines on August 21, 2019.

Also read about a 6.6 acre Orlan Love Prairie at Squaw Creek Park
“Orlan’s stories are credited with raising public awareness of the need to protect natural resources in Eastern Iowa and beyond the state’s borders,” the sign installed at the prairie reads, in part. “This prairie is a living tribute to a much-loved writer and conservationist.” From Homegrown Iowan