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!


Exciting Event October 16!

"COMING EVENT!! Spread the word!
"Butterflies and Their People: Rethinking Monarch Conservation"
Sunday, October 16, 1:00 PM
Indian Creek Nature Center Auditorium
in the Amazing Space building, 5300 Otis Rd SE,
Cedar Rapids

With Dr. Ellen Sharp, Cultural Anthropologist, Cerro Pelon Monarch Sanctuary, Macheros, Mexico.

Many Mexicans who live near the monarch butterfly overwintering grounds in the Sierra Madre mountains depend on illegal logging in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve for income, despite financial incentives paid to them by the government to prevent it.

In this talk, Dr. Sharp proposes an alternative model of forest conservation: the employment of full-time rangers. She also discusses the widespread institutional resistance to replacing one-time payments with meaningful work.

Free will donations, tax deductible, go to her nonprofit, "Butterflies and Their People Project", raising funds to hire rangers to protect the forests in the Monarch reserves from illegal logging.   Please be generous if you can."

Article by Dr. Ellen Sharp:  Monarch Conservation Efforts for Naught?

 Ellen will also be presenting at the University of Iowa the following night:

 Ellen Sharp, PhD, Cultural Anthropologist;
Co-founder, Butterflies and Their People, A.C.

Monday, October 17
7:00 PM
106 Gilmore Hall

Butterflies and Their People: Rethinking Monarch Conservation in Mexico     Poster      


PARKING:  There is some street parking on N. Clinton Street and other surrounding streets. Metered parking is available in ramp beneath Pappajohn Business Building with entrance on N. Clinton St.  The Iowa Memorial Union Parking Ramp is a block west on N. Madison St.   Gilmore Hall has a wheelchair accessible entrance on the east side lower level of the building that leads directly to elevator.  Room 106 is on first floor. 


Monarch tagging to begin soon

Monarchs in Eastern Iowa MONARCH TAGGING EVENT to be held during the Amazing Space grand opening weekend at Indian Creek Nature Center on Sept. 17th from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.  Volunteers needed! Please contact us at the email address in the right column.

A member of our Monarchs in Eastern Iowa group asked this question:  "Is there a magical beginning and end date for monarch tagging in eastern Iowa? Such as, "no earlier than..." And "no later than..." Does this change yearly based on weather or is it a period of time that's concrete?"

Photo credit: Dave Johnson 
From Monarchwatch: When do you tag Monarchs?
As the length of daylight shortens in mid August and September, monarchs in northern latitudes, i.e. near the Canadian border, begin to migrate. Monarchs farther south will begin their journey a few weeks later. Tagging and monitoring should begin in late August in all regions, with a concentrated effort made in September and early October. 

A GOOD RULE: when the wild asters, especially A. novae-angliae, goldenrod and Joe Pye weed are in bloom, the monarchs are migrating. In much of the lower midwest, migrating monarchs are attracted in large numbers to a tall late blooming thistle (Cirsium altissimum) several species of sunflowers and other species of Asteraceae.

Latitude:  You can determine the estimated peak of the migration in your area based on latitude.  Use Google to find your latitude by entering your city, state and the word "latitude."
For example:  Searching for "Cedar Rapids, Iowa latitude" - results in 41.977879 latitude

Then check this link at Monarch Watch to view peak monarch migration in your area.

If you have questions about tagging, please visit "Migration & Tagging (click the tagging links on the left side bar too!), read and learn!



Photos courtesy of Milkweed Matters Facebook page

Kelly Guilbeau, Alesia (formerly from Glenwood) and Elizabeth Hill
Last week, (July 24-30, 2016) as riders in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa followed the route from “river to river” across Iowa, many tossed small objects into the roadside ditches. They weren’t littering; instead, they were helping to plant common milkweed (​Asclepias​ syriaca) seedballs to create breeding and feeding habitat for Monarch butterflies.

The effort was spearheaded by Milkweed Matters and Monarchs in Eastern Iowa, two groups that organize educational programs and advocate for Monarch butterflies and their habitat.

Milkweed Matters was established in 2014 by two Grinnell­-area activists, Kelly Guilbeau and Carolynn McCormick, and this year, expanded its work into a RAGBRAI riding team, educational seedball­making workshops, and eight informational booths along the route. During RAGBRAI, the two organizations led efforts to distribute 46,000 seedballs to RAGBRAI participants. Assisting in the distribution effort were volunteers from Iowa State University Extension staff, Master Gardener groups, Grinnell College student interns, and local conservationists from across Iowa.

2016 marked the third year of efforts to spread milkweed seed along the RAGBRAI route: In 2014 with loose seed in packets, and in 2015 with the first use of seedballs during the Monarchs in Eastern Iowa RAGBRAI Seedball Project, which distributed these to riders passing through Mount Vernon.

 The amazing volunteer crew in Moravia who gave out 8,500 seedballs.
During the spring of 2016, 36 events brought together more than 2,000 Iowans to learn about the importance of the Monarch’s habitat and prepare 50,816 milkweed seedballs. Composed of 50 percent soil and 50 percent clay, each seedball contained two to six common milkweed seeds collected from Iowa roadsides. The volunteers who rolled the seedballs represented a variety of audiences and age­groups, from elementary school students, scout troops, 4­H clubs, Masters Gardeners, and nursing home residents, to area Grange members, Anamosa State Penitentiary inmates, and members of corporate teams.

Last week, volunteers staffed a booth along the route each day of RAGBRAI, educating riders, team support staff, and locals about the population decline of Monarch butterflies and other pollinators, and giving them the opportunity to help by tossing milkweed seedballs into the public roadside ditches along the biking and support vehicle routes and along portions of the Wabash Trace Nature Trail and Kewash Nature Trail.

“My voice is much more sore than my thighs” said Elizabeth Hill, after riding and speaking with hundreds of riders over the week.

Volunteer Courtney Turnis of Coon Rapids, Iowa, hosted the Milkweed Matters biking team at her family home in Corning and was in charge of the volunteer booth in Mt. Ayr.

“A little boy came to pick up some seedballs and he had the tiniest hands,” Turnis said. “But after I gave him a handful, he told me, ‘I can carry a lot more than that.’ “

Booth outside of Hayesville with volunteers from Monarchs in Eastern Iowa
Seedballs are often used to plant wildflowers because the clay medium protects seeds from being eaten by small mammals and supports the cold­moist stratification, or “overwintering” process that seeds must go through to germinate.

“While some milkweed seeds planted along the RAGBRAI route may germinate this fall, the majority of them will germinate in the spring, and grow into plants that Monarchs will lay their eggs on next summer,” said Guilbeau.

Milkweed Matters hopes to continue the momentum of the planting project, and will continue to encourage Iowans to learn about the need for pollinators and their habitat. “We were absolutely thrilled with the response we received during the week,” said Kelly Guilbeau, “There were bikers, long­boarders, support vehicle drivers, and town volunteers, who stopped each day to pick up more seedballs. It was a powerful display of grassroots crowdplanting.”

Property owners and public land managers can assist with the cause by learning about roadside management practices and pollinator habitat needs. Connect with the cause by visiting​ www.milkweedmatters.org​.


Late July

Thousands of RAGBRAI riders are moving across Iowa all this week and the Milkweed Matters team have finished their second day.  We send our best wishes for a safe trip!  If you'd like to follow the team check out their facebook page.  We are pleased that MEI's idea to make 2,000 milkweed seedballs for RAGBRAI in 2015 has expanded so much this year (to 50,000+).  Hopefully we'll see the fruits of all of our labor next year!

In the meantime, Alason from Mount Vernon is one of our MEI members using containers New Pioneer Co-op donated to MEI for raising monarch butterflies. In the below photo you can see one chrysalis in each container.  It is neat how they are color-coordinated with the New Pi logo on each container!  Alason commented, "Not too much longer and Mt. Vernon will be getting even more beautiful!"  Another shout-out to New Pi, and thanks again!


Total Seedballs for RAGBRAI

From Milkweed Matters
     Our grand total: 50,816 milkweed seedballs for the roadsides of RAGBRAI!! Can you believe it?!? Thanks to all of the Monarchs in Eastern Iowa members who held events, volunteered their time, donated supplies, or supported financially! Check out all of the events and some fun photos! Now on to the RIDE!

To learn more about the RAGBRAI seedball initiative visit

From all the Monarch butterfly enthusiasts in MEI .....
THANK YOU KELLY GUILBEAU for leading this effort!


Volunteers needed

The RAGBRAI 2016 Milkweed Seed Ball Initiative needs your help!

The seedball booth in Mount Vernon, July 2015.
Last year, Monarchs in Eastern Iowa (MEI) made and distributed 2000 milkweed seed balls to give to riders who passed through MountVernon, to toss into ditches as they rode. Patty Ankrum recently checked the road south of Lisbon and found evidence that the seed ball project WORKED! New milkweed plants, isolated, with no patches of established milkweed nearby. One of our MEI members claims she's never seen milkweed on this road before this year.

During this year's RAGBRAI, MEI and Milkweed Matters will be handing out seedballs to riders to toss into ditches across the entire state, with Kelly Guilbeau of Milkweed Matters leading the team.

We have done AMAZING things! Our group has "manned" several educational booths, participated in tons of public outreach, and...oh yeah, did I mention making 35,000 seed balls!

HOWEVER...we need to finish this strong! We have 35,000 seed balls [as of June 21 Kelly reports there are over 40,000 seedballs!] and we are really in need of people to hand them out. There will be a booth every day in the second town on the RAGBRAI route. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we have a booth that does not have a leader...and almost all of the booths along the route need additional helpers.  We need volunteers in the below towns to help pass out balls to riders.

***Moravia...near Centerville (Thursday, July 28th)****
This town is majorly in need of a leader, or co-leaders and helpers.

Other towns that you could donate your time to include:
Monday, July 25th in Bethesda...near Corning
Tuesday, July 26th in Mount Ayr...near Creston
Wednesday, July 27th in Humeston...near Leon
Friday, July 29th in Hayesville...near Ottumwa OR
Saturday, July 30th in Columbus Junction...near Washington

Helpers do not need to be MEI members. They can be your friends or relatives that live in or near those towns that are willing to help out.

Another way you can help:
If anyone has housing connections around the overnight towns (Shenandoah, Creston, Leon, Centerville, Ottumwa,or Washington), for the leaders/volunteers/riding team to have a place to pitch tents and maybe even shower.
Kelly  Guilbeau talking about Monarchs to another RAGBRAI rider.
Please send an email to

 to let us know if you are able to help! We need to pull together one last time to make the RAGBRAI seed ball project a success!


Milkweed Matters
Milkweed Matters on Facebook


Help Make Seedballs

Just a note:  After the weekend and the event at Lowe Park in Marion, Iowa there are now  22,896 seedballs made for the Milkweed Matters RAGBRAI Seedball Initiative! Only a little over 12K left to make!

Consider helping to make seedballs at



There are MANY events coming up in the next couple weeks. Most of the plan sales will have milkweeds for sale, or pollinator plants for Monarch butterflies and other pollinators. Some events will also offer a chance to made milkweed seedballs.

Please click to the events calendar tab above to view the working calendar where you will be able to click on each entry to expand it and view more information.


12,446 Milkweed Seed Balls!

(From Milkweed Matters RAGBRAI Seedball Initiative)

Thanks to all who came out to the Monarchs in Eastern Iowa milkweed seed ball making events at New Pioneer Coop in Iowa City on April 22nd, and at EcoFest at NewBo Market in Cedar Rapids on April 23rd!

Between these two events, we made 2,730 seed balls, bringing our current total to 12,446! That's 35% of our goal of 35,000, and it's only the end of April!  We have many more seed ball making events in the works across the state of Iowa!

We can surely use some help with our expenses with this project, so if you are interested, please Click Here for information!  Thank you!


Upcoming events

Make Seedballs at New Pioneer Food Co-op
Friday, April 22
4 to 5 p.m.
New Pioneer Food Co-op
22 S Van Buren St, Iowa City

Come support Monarchs in Eastern Iowa's very own Tabitha Tahbo and Amy Blessing at the New Pioneer Co-op, Iowa City location. Stop and make some seed balls for Ragbrai followed by some grocery shopping at New Pioneer! A special thanks to Genie Maybanks for helping organize this!

EcoFest at NewBo Market In Cedar Rapids
April 23, 2016   10 am-4 pm

Monarchs in Eastern Iowa (MEI) will have a booth at this event offering the public a chance to help make milkweed seed balls for RAGBRAI riders to toss while they ride across Iowa.  The seed balls will be given to the 2016 RAGBRAI Seedball Initiative.  We hope to expand the number of milkweeds growing in Iowa this way.

Celebrate your local eco-friendly community with some good green fun at this Earth Day event in Eastern Iowa with live music, local vendors, artists and more!    Click for more EcoFest info

Visit the 2016 RAGBRAI Seedball Initiative  See how YOU can be involved!
HELP FUND the Seedball Initiative  35,000 seed balls means a LOT of clay and trays to hold them.  Educational materials will be needed for tables and booths at RAGBRAI stops.


Thank you New Pioneer Co-op

New Pioneer Food Co-op has once again donated these wonderful containers.  We will use them for rearing our Monarch butterfly caterpillars this spring and summer! 

Thank you New Pioneer!


MEI to be at Earth Day in Anamosa

Earth Day Fair & Grant Wood Trail Pancake Breakfast
Sunday, April 17 ... 8 AM - 1 PM
Lawrence Community Center - 600 E Main St, Anamosa, IA 

Dawn Leon will man a Monarchs in Eastern Iowa table at this event and will speak at 11 a.m.  Dawn is also the creater of The Caterpillar Chronicles

Educational sessions begin at 10 AM with Master Gardener Spring Planting Tips and Tricks with Kim Miller and "THE AMAZING MONARCH - SHARE THE MAGIC" Program with DAWN LEON -  representing Monarch in Eastern Iowa.

This event will have over 35 booths featuring local conservation efforts and clubs. Many of the booths will feature fun and eye opening hands on demonstrations and interactive activities for young and old alike.
Click for more information
Facebook Event


Plant seed in flats now

NOW is the time to start milkweed seeds indoors for planting outside after the last frost!  Explore other tabs on this blog to find information on how!

Eagle Scout Project a great success

Ben Elliott accomplished a great deed with his Eagle Scout Project - inviting the public to help make milkweed seed balls.  The event was held on Saturday, March 12, 2016 at NewBo Market in Cedar Rapids in conjunction with the Milkweed Matters 2016 RAGBRAI Initiative, and Monarchs in Eastern Iowa. Over 100 "rollers" (including LOTS of children) participated in producing 4,040 seed balls in a period of about 6 hours.  KUDOS to Ben and all his helpers!  The milkweed seed balls will be offered to bicycle riders on RAGBRAI to toss along roadways all across Iowa during the ride from July 24th through the 30th. Milkweed Matters' goal is to make 35,000 seed balls by the time RAGBRAI starts.

Visit the 2016 RAGBRAI Seedball Initiative  See how YOU can be involved!

HELP FUND the Seedball Initiative  35,000 seed balls means a LOT of clay and trays to hold them.  Educational materials will be needed for tables and booths at RAGBRAI stops.

Visit Milkweed Matters on Facebook      Milkweed Matters on Twitter

Click the photos to enlarge them.
"Rollers" are shown busy at work at NewBo Market on March 12th.  

Kelly Guilbeau of Milkweed Matters talks to news media during the event.
See the coverage at KCRG


More March events

Make Milkweed Seed Balls at
NewBo  City Market in Cedar Rapids

Saturday, March 12 - 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Click for Facebook event page

This is an Eagle Scout project in conjunction with Milkweed Matters RAGBRAI initiative.

Join us at the Newbo City Market on March 12th to learn about the monarch butterfly population and help grow it with milkweed seed balls! Milkwe
ed is the sole host for monarch eggs; without milkweed we would lose the already declining monarch population. Our seed balls will help reestablish the milkweed habitats. Milkweed Matters and Monarchs in Eastern Iowa will be distributing over 35,000 milkweed seed balls across the 2016 RAGBRAI route.
Visit Milkweed Matters to find out more! 

We need your help to make our share of the output! You can come anytime between 10am and 4pm.

Iowa's Living Landscapes: Challenges and Opportunities for the Future.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Kirkwood Community College, Ballantyne Auditorium
6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Click here for the 2-page .pdf brochure
for schedule and more information

There is no charge for this program.  Lunch is on your own in The Cafe at Kirkwood.  Exhibit tables for this year will be in the atrium area just outside Ballantyne Auditorium.  Our own Patty Ankrum and Andria Cossolotto from Monarchs in Eastern Iowa will be presenting at this workshop among many others.

Please register before noon on Thursday, March 10th at Linn County Conservation Deprtment, 319-892-6458, or email Amanda Bieber (at) linncounty.org.

(See other event by clicking on the "Events Calendar" tab at the top of the page.)


March 2016 events

We want to bring some attention to some events that are coming up in March.

Saturday, March 5, 2016
8:15 am – 4:15 pm
Iowa State University Linn County Extension Master Gardeners are hosting a day of horticulture at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. It will be a day of horticultural workshops / classes with experts in over 70 topics such as: Seed Starting at Home, Ash Tree Alternatives, Fairy Garden Workshop, Designing a Pollinator Habitat and New Perennials for 2016. Choose 4 sessions, a keynote, “Blending Science, Art & Passion in the Garden” by monarch butterfly expert, Susie Vanderlip, and lunch at the Coe College cafeteria.

Admission: $59 (includes lunch)  Please click poster to enlarge it. 

Registration information is located on the right of this page

You will find a more complete explanation of all the workshops by clicking for the Winter Gardening Fair brochure


Follow-up: Dr. Chip Taylor's presentation at Kirkwood College

Well over 200 butterfly and pollinator enthusiasts attended the January 20th
event sponsored by The Linn County Master Gardeners
Videos of Dr. Chip Taylor presentation, January 20, 2016
from Linn County Master Gardeners YouTube Channel

Planting for Pollinators Kick-off, Part 1
Planting for Pollinators Kick-off, Part 2

Iowa central to proposed “Monarch Highway”
By Cindy Hadish/Homegrown Iowan
CEDAR RAPIDS – Travelers along Interstate 35 would share the plus-1,500-mile route with some migrating friends if plans for a “Monarch Highway” take flight.  Chip Taylor, founder and director of Monarch Watch and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas, described the proposal during his presentation Jan. 20 at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.

Read the rest of the story at

2016 RAGBRAI riders to distribute milkweed seeds

Kelly Guilbeau was on hand to tell people about the RAGBRAI team that will be distributing milkweed seed balls on the 2016 bicycle ride across Iowa.  She is organizing seedball making events to be held this winter.  If you wish to be a part of this effort, or ride on the team please see Milkweed Matters: The Official RAGBRAI Team

Monarchs in Eastern Iowa had a table at the event with information to share.  Thanks to MEI member, Larry A. Long for the photos.