Dr. Chip Taylor to present in Cedar Rapids


Press Release
Iowa State University Extension & Outreach

December 5, 2015

The Linn County Master Gardeners and Kirkwood Community College would like to invite the public to a special event on January 20, 2016, to kick-off their “Planting for Pollinators” Year.

Dr. Chip Taylor, founder and Director of Monarch Watch, will be sharing his knowledge of Monarchs, their basic biology, migration challenges, habitat considerations, and the status and trends in the monarch population.

The presentation is free –
Date:  Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Time:  6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Place:  The Kirkwood Center
            7725 Kirkwood Blvd. SW
            Cedar Rapids, IA   52404

Chip is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.  Trained as an insect ecologist, he has published papers on species assemblages, hybridization, reproductive biology, population dynamics and plant demographics and pollination. Starting in 1974, Chip Taylor established research sites and directed students studying Neotropical African honey bees (killer bees) in French Guiana, Venezuela, and Mexico.

In 1992, Dr. Taylor founded Monarch Watch, an outreach program focused on education, research and conservation relative to monarch butterflies. Since then, Monarch Watch has enlisted the help of volunteers to tag monarchs during the fall migration.  This program has produced many new insights into the dynamics of the monarch migration.

In 2005 Monarch Watch created the Monarch Waystation program, in recognition that habitats for monarchs are declining at a rate of 6,000 acres a day in the United States. The goal of this program is to inspire the public, schools and others to create habitats for monarch butterflies and to assist Monarch Watch in educating the public about the decline in resources for monarchs, pollinators and all wildlife that share the same habitats.

For more background please visit http://monarchwatch.org/blog/2014/03/25/monarch-butterfly-recovery-plan/


Facebook features our group

Facebook came to  Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa and filmed for this Facebook Story feature about how our group has used Facebook to gather together eastern Iowa people interested in saving Monarch Butterflies.  Thank you, Facebook!

On September 6 2015, our facebook group for people from Eastern Iowa got together in person for an event.  At this event, attended by around 180 enthusiasts of all ages, we tagged and did a mass release of these beautiful and unique butterflies to send them on their way to Mexico. We had a special guest – a “Facebook Stories” camera crew recorded the event and produced the below video.

Monarchs in Eastern Iowa encourages people in other regions to form their own Facebook Groups, programs and projects to educate, involve more people and get more boots on the ground to benefit Monarch butterflies.  It is particularly important to PLANT MILKWEED and butterfly friendly wildflowers, in areas that are protected from chemical use or herbicide/pesticide drift. Despite what you may have heard, the decline of the Monarch population is not due to the weather, it is primarily due to the loss of Milkweed, mainly in the Midwest. This plant is the ONLY plant on which Monarchs will lay their eggs and feed their caterpillars, so it is crucial to Monarchs’ population increase to Grow Milkweed native to your region. “If you plant it…they will come!”
Save the Monarchs

Every year, the iconic Monarch butterflies migrate 3,000 miles from Canada to Mexico and back, passing through and laying eggs in Eastern Iowa. Monarchs only lay their eggs on milkweed, but herbicides have taken their toll on the plant and has sent the Monarch population into a drastic decline. See how the Monarchs in Eastern Iowa Facebook group has saved more than 4,000 Monarch butterflies by teaching hundreds of people to grow milkweed.

Posted by Facebook Stories on Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Winter Sowing

WINTER 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 would be a great way to start milkweed plants for Monarch butterflies -  as well as nectar sources such as new england asters - purple coneflowers, etc. for next spring. 

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.
Here is a ,pdf brochure that explains Trudi's method

Another link
Winter Sowing - A step by step guide from "Get Busy Gardening"

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

Late October through November is an excellent time to sow seeds on bare ground.

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.


Time to collect milkweed seed

Photo courtesy of Laura Columbus
Harvest and Storage of Milkweed Seeds

From Monarch Watch   "The timing of the collection of milkweed pods or seeds is critical. Mature pods are those that are within a day or two of opening.  If you squeeze the pods and they don’t open easily, they usually do not contain mature brown seeds.  Seeds well into the process of browning and hardening will germinate when planted the next season. Pale or white seeds should be not collected.

Photo courtesy of Laura Columbus
Freshly collected pods should be dried in an open area with good air circulation. Once the pods are thoroughly dry, the seeds can be separated from the coma, or silk-like ballooning material, by hand. Separation of seeds can also be accomplished by stripping the seeds and coma from the pods into a paper bag. Shake the contents of the bag vigorously to separate the seeds from the coma and then cut a small hole in a corner of the bottom of the bag and shake out the seeds.

Store dried seeds in a cool, dry place protected from mice and insects - a plastic bag (re-closable) or other container in the refrigerator works well."

Helpful links
Collecting and Harvesting Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, seeds
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhjkC1Mbzlg (Mona L. Miller video)

Here is a link to many videos about collecting milkweed seeds.

How to harvest milkweed seeds

Monarch Joint Venture - scroll down to "Tips for Hand Harvesting"

Scroll half-way down this page to see “Gathering Milkweed Seeds”

Plant in the fall!
Late October through November is the time to plant seeds in the fall.

If you save the seeds until spring they will first need to be "stratified" or cold-treated.

You can find out more by running searches on how to plant milkweed.  Check out this link from the Pollination Station to get started.  http://www.pollinationstation.org/planting-instructions.html


A very successful event

Photo courtesy of Richard Sjolund.. Click on the photo to enlarge it.
Thank you to all who attended our event.  

We were stunned and pleased with the turnout!

There were about 180 people in attendance at the Monarchs in Eastern Iowa (MEI) event, "The Great Migration: Monarch Tag and Release" held the afternoon of September 6th in the Thomas Commons building at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.  

Presenters were MEI members Andria Cossolotto, talking about the history of tagging; Patty Ankrum, with photos from her trip to the wintering grounds for Monarch butterflies in Mexico; and Gordon Lavergne who demonstrated how to tag and log data for the Monarch Watch organization.

Monarchs awaiting release.
Click to enlarge.
Photo by William Hosford
Members of the MEI group brought many containers holding about 225 Monarch butterflies they had raised in their homes from eggs or caterpillars they gathered from milkweed plants.  MEI has such a dedicated and caring group of people raising Monarchs!  Thank you to each and every one of you!

After his demonstration, Lavergne led the crowd out to a nearby patio and orchestrated a mass release of butterflies, much to the delight of the on-lookers, many of them children.  

These butterflies will be part of the great migration of Monarch butterflies from Canada and the United States to Mexico's Central Highlands, where they spend the winter before returning north in the spring of 2016.

On hand to record the event was local television KGAN-CBS2. Thanks for sharing our story!

MEI member, Patty Ankrum with the Facebook team.
Photo courtesy of William Hosford.
In addition, a team from Facebook had flown in from the west coast earlier in the day specifically to film and develop a story for "Facebook Stories", showcasing our group.

The story about MEI will appear in a few weeks and we are delighted that the Facebook story will expand awareness about the plight of the Monarch.  Thank you Facebook!

And finally, thank you to Cornell College Cole Library for coordinating with us and sponsoring our event.  

It's hard to catch butterflies in flight in a photo, but Jim Langhus did a pretty good job capturing some of the hundreds of tagged Monarchs released on the patio of the Thomas Commons building at Cornell College on September 6, 2015.  Everyone held one butterfly up in their hand and released them all at once accompanied by laughter, ooo's and ah's!  (Click the photo to enlarge it.)


Monarch Tag & Release Event

Today's event was a great success! Thank you to all who attended "The Great Migration:  Monarch Tag and Release". We estimate that there were 180+ people in attendance and we released more than 225 tagged Monarch butterflies to begin their journey south to their winter home in Mexico. Thank you to all who attended, all that brought their Monarchs to share in the release, and to the organizers for an excellent presentation!  Photos and more to follow later!


Photo of tagged Monarch butterfly courtesy of Karla McGrail

The Great Migration: 
Monarch Tag and Release
Sunday, September 6th
1:00 p.m. 
Hall-Perrine room at Thomas Commons building, Cornell College in Mount Vernon,

Help us turn the skies orange and black at this "Monarchs in Eastern Iowa" tag and release event.  There will be VERY cool special guests at the event .... we are sworn to secrecy! Bring butterflies so we can make a huge statement with this launching that can be seen across the campus and Mount Vernon. We hope for a very good turnout at this event!

These home-raised butterflies will return to the same mountains in Mexico - mostly to the same trees - where their great grandparents overwintered last year. They'll travel to a place they've never been before, flying as high as 10,000 feet, facing many obstacles on their way.

PRESENTERS: Andria Cossolotto, history of tagging; Patty Ankrum, photos from her trip to Mexico last February to visit the semi-hibernating monarchs; and Gordon Lavergne, demonstration on how to tag and log tag data for Monarch Watch.

Butterflies and tags are optional - not required. But if you have newly emerged butterflies, bring as many as can safely transport.

MEMBERS:  If you have Monarch Watch tags, please bring. If you don't, tagging is optional, but tags are available with request of a 50 cent donation.  You may also order tags through Monarch Watch Shop.  Find out more!  

This event is open to the public, all ages and skill level. Help us send off these beautiful creatures on their journey to Mexico!

Sponsored by the Cornell College Cole Library.


MEI News

Some news from Monarchs in Eastern Iowa group:

NATIONAL COVERAGE:  We are pleased that the Des Moines Register video/article has been picked up by a number of news organizations across the country. We ARE getting out our message about saving Monarchs!  Thank you!

LAKE McBRIDE:  In addition, one of our members has been given permission by Lake McBride State Park near Solon, Iowa to plant milkweed in grassy, prairie areas around the lake. Thank you!

August 16, 2015 ... 6:30 p.m.

Eastside Recycling Center
2401 Scott Blvd. SE
Iowa City, IA

Learn about milkweed, monarchs, and more! If you are interested in learning how to care for Monarchs--from the egg through release stages, please join us.

Come listen and learn from speakers Sydney Algreen, Johson County Conservation, Marcie Evans, MA, monarch enthusiast, and Katherine Ryan Hogendorn, monarch enthusiast spearheading a project to increase the monarch population at Lake MacBride.

We will also have a panel from Monarchs in Eastern Iowa for Q&A after the event! There will be a limited number of milkweeds, eggs and caterpillars given out to those who are interested.
 If you need more information, contact Kathy at 319-624-5240.

Click the image to enlarge it.


RAGRAI event a success!

Our group's efforts to hand out milkweed seed balls to bicycle riders participating in the Des Moines "Register's Annual Great Ride Across Iowa" (RAGBRAI) was a great success.  Thank you to all the members who volunteered their time and efforts!  Below are links to some of the coverage the event received.

From KCRG Cedar Rapids

From KGAN Cedar Rapids  (start about 1:17 minutes into the video)
RAGBRAI Riders Helping Butterflies - KGAN-TV CBS 2 Iowa - Top Stories

From the USA Today
Efforts intensify to save the monarch butterfly (Article and Video)

From KCAU Sioux City (start about 3:02 into the video)
RAGBRAI Riders Work to Boost the Monarch Population in Iowa



Mount Vernon's RAGBRAI theme is "Live, Love, Ride".  Our theme is PEACE, LOVE, FLY!

We plan to have at least 2000 milkweed seed balls to hand out to bicyclists participating in RAGBRAI as they pass through Mount Vernon, Iowa this coming Friday, July 24th, 2015.

We will be asking them to toss the balls into unkempt/un-mowed ditches far out in the countryside. Our hope is that many many more milkweed plants will be growing in the ditches next spring for Monarch butterflies to find and lay eggs upon.  (Milkweed is the only thing that Monarch caterpillars can eat!)

Our booth will be located by the Visitors Center right by the big white gazebo in Memorial Park on 1st St. W, between 5th Ave. and 3rd Ave. (look for the water tower).  
  • We will have "Street Butterflies", members flitting around the crowded streets with butterfly wings, bringing attention to our booth.  
  • We will be releasing Monarch butterflies that have been raised by our group off and on
  • Informational literature will be available
We are looking forward to meeting many people and spreading the word about saving the Monarch!

(Read about Kelly “Milkweed” Guilbeau  (from the Des Moines Register) - Kelly scatters milkweed all across Iowa as she rides RAGBRAI in her Monarch butterfly wings!   Visit her blog


KCRG News clip

By Mark Carlson, KCRG-TV9 July 16, 2015 | 6:32 pm
Thousands of RAGBRAI riders could help Iowa’s monarch butterfly population when they trek across the state next week.  Members of the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health are assisting with an effort to restore milkweed plants in Linn and Johnson counties. They plan to hand small balls made of soil, compost and milkweed seeds to riders as they pass through Mount Vernon next Friday.

Read the rest of the story at http://tinyurl.com/pkhgdas


July news

Patty Ankrum form Monarchs in Eastern
Iowa and Theresa Carberry from New
Pioneer Co-op holding some of the
donated containers.
Our group effort at finding Monarch eggs, raising and releasing Monarch butterflies is in full swing. Due to cool weather and rain, the process was delayed, but we are now seeing lots of action!

Thanks, New Pi!
We want to extend our thanks to New Pioneer Co-op.  They donated 1000 plastic containers to our group. We will be distributing them to responsible host families to help rear Monarchs from eggs to butterflies for release. Many group members have stepped forward to "adopt" eggs to raise!

The group will also be distributing 2000+ milkweed seed-balls made out of clay and soil to RAGBRAI riders who will "seed-bomb" un-sprayed ditches across Iowa to help restore monarch habitat.  

The next seed-ball making party is July 21 at 11:30 a.m. in Scott Church Park near Iowa City.  Click the link for directions if you wish to help!

From our friends at Indian Creek Nature Center

To the right is a photo of deli containers housing happy little monarch caterpillars. We sincerely appreciated the New Pioneer Co-op donation to Monarchs of Eastern Iowa who are working with us on our monarch hoop house project. 

On July 10th at Indian Creek nature center 77 adults and 53 children attended our Monarch Party to learn about monarchs, their conservation issues and each took home a caterpillar to raise and release as an adult butterfly. 
- Jan Aiels
  Education Director/Senior Naturalist at Indian Creek Nature Center


Follow up

The milkweed seed ball making event at Indian Creek Nature Center had to move inside because of rain, and we had a dirty, messy, great time! There were more than a dozen people present, and we made almost 600 balls to hand out to RAGBRAI bicycle riders when they pass through Mount Vernon.

Much laughter, and it was great to meet members of the FaceBook group in person! We had several girls who helped, did a fabulous job, and one even counted all the balls.  We'll do this again in Mount Vernon or Lisbon, and maybe in Iowa City.

We also saw the butterfly hoop house at the Center and it had several monarch butterflies!


Help make seed balls for RAGBRAI

RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) is coming up fast.  Thousands of bicycle riders will be riding across Iowa July 19-25, 2015.  They will be passing through Mount Vernon, Iowa and members of our group have decided to make milkweed seed balls to pass out to riders.  We hope that they will toss them in ditches and help spread milkweed across Eastern Iowa for Monarch caterpillars to eat in the future.

We need your help!  Learn how to make milkweed seed balls! Make a few for yourself and make MANY for RAGBRAI riders to disperse!

Event details:
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 - 1:30 p.m.

Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 
We need to have a count of people coming, so please RSVP to
Contact Us


Important Happenings!

THIS is good news!  I hope the butterflies and other insects fly high above the traffic!

Obama launches plant to save the bees and butterflies
(Excerpt)  In “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” issued by the White House press office, the president outlines the importance of pollinators, the threat they are under, and a plan of attack to get them back on track.

This Is How The Obama Administration Plans To Save Bees And Butterflies
(Excerpt)  The plan calls for restoring 7 million acres (2.8 million hectares) of bee habitat in the next five years. Numerous federal agencies will have to find ways to grow plants on federal lands that are more varied and better for bees to eat because scientists have worried that large land tracts that grow only one crop have hurt bee nutrition.

The White House plan to save the monarch butterfly: Build a butterfly highway
"Traffic on Interstate 35 is about to get a lot … buggier.
(Excerpt) That’s thanks to President Obama, newfound friend to imperiled pollinators everywhere, and his strategy for protecting the nation’s insects. Among the proposals is a plan to create a pollinator highway along the I-35 corridor, which extends from Mexico to Minnesota and follows a main route for the annual monarch butterfly migration."

Pella Wildlife Company Launches Monarch Butterfly Restoration Project 
(Excerpt)  DES MOINES, Iowa – The Pella Wildlife Company is working with the Iowa Department of Transportation to restore the Monarch Butterfly population in the Midwest.

The I-35 Monarch Sustainability Program involves Pella Wildlife Company workers and volunteers planting the milkweed wildflower along I-35 from the southern to northern tip of the state. The wildlife company requested a special permit to plant the wildflower along I-35 from the Iowa DOT and is responsible for the planting and maintaining of the plots.


Plant for Monarchs this spring

from pollinator.org

You have jumped in and planted your first milkweeds to help the Monarch butterflies.  Now what?

Plant a Monarch WayStation!

Monarch Garden Plants (with photos)

What Flowers attract Monarch Butterflies

Plants for Butterfly and Pollinator Gardens (.pdf).  Extensive list from which to choose!


They are on the move!

If you click on the migration map on the right you'll see that the Monarch migration is in Missouri and will be hitting Iowa soon.

Members of the Monarchs in Eastern Iowa group are busy planting milkweed seeds in flats to plant outside later, making plans on how to give out milkweed seeds and share knowledge with other groups, and exchanging "how-to" information.  We're excited!

We will be posting upcoming events of interest on the "Events Calendar" tab above on an on-going basis.  Please check back!

Photo:  A milkweed sprout emerging in the spring.
Thanks to Debbie J.!

GET INSPIRED!   Here is a great video to watch from National Geographic.  
How to Create Your Own Monarch Butterfly Rest Stop


Things are happening!

Progress is being made in eastern Iowa, in Iowa and in the nation, but we all need to keep working on helping the monarchs, planting milkweed, raising caterpillars, planting sources for nectar and spreading the word wherever we can!


We are excited about what we will accomplish this year!

Here are a few examples of what's happening.

Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium Established
March 2, 2015  - Enhancing the monarch butterfly’s habitat in rural and urban Iowa is the goal of a new, broad-based statewide effort.  The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium, established through the efforts of Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, will take a science-based approach to enhancing monarch butterfly reproduction and assist community-led implementation efforts.  Read more about it!

CBS News Sunday Morning ran a piece on Monarchs in March, 2015.

U.S. to consider endangered species status for monarch butterfly.
January 05, 2015 - WASHINGTON • The federal Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct a “status review” of the monarch butterfly to see if it deserves federal endangered species protection.  The regulatory step does not mean the agency will place the monarch on the endangered or protected list, but its decision ensures a comprehensive review of up to a year. The agency determined that environmental and food safety groups had presented “substantial information” supporting the review.
     Environmental groups hailed last week’s announcement, calling it a “vital first step” to give stronger protection for the iconic butterfly, which scientists say is threatened by the loss of wintering forest habitat in Mexico and milkweed essential to its reproduction in the United States and Canada.
Read more about it. http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/fish-and-wildlife-service-to-consider-endangered-species-status-for/article_33ea634b-d8d1-514f-b891-0ac65fee4491.html

There is even a RAGBRAI group called  "Milkweed Matters" who spread seeds across the state during the bicycle ride across Iowa and talk to people who may not be aware of the Monarch's plight!

Be sure to check out the tabs at the top of the page.  There is a lot of information there, including directions and videos of "how to" and upcoming events.