Another year down

Thanks to Carla Knutson for this photo of the monarch
butterfly Christmas Tree she and her daughter created
for a festival of trees event.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Monarchs in Eastern Iowa facebook group members have done another WONDERFUL job of raising monarchs from eggs and caterpillars this year.  Although all the numbers may not be in yet, in 2017 they have so far raised and released over 6,100 monarch butterflies to fly south to Mexico to overwinter.  This compares to 6,280 in 2016, 3,075 in 2015 and 972 in 2014, the year we started our group.  So, in all, we've raised nearly 16,500 monarch butterflies!

This doesn't count all the eggs and caterpillars that members have given out to neighbors, organizations and friends to raise.  I think we are doing a fantastic job in our little corner of Iowa!

It is time to think about winter sowing milkweed seeds.  For more information read an old post about winter sowing 

Also find out about an upcoming fundraising event, Butterflies, Bees & Brews, Sunday, December 10th,1 to 4 p.m. at Contrary Brewing in Muscatine, put on by our friends, the Muscatine Pollinators group.  Muscatine native James Patchett will be a guest speaker to discuss sustainable rooftop gardens. An admission ticket includes one free drink stub.
Read the article   
Event Page:  Butterflies, bees and brews

The Spring 2018 application is now open for habitat restoration projects located in the Monarch Milkweed Corridor.  This application is for large-scale (two acres or more) native habitat restoration only.  Read about this program

Monarch Watch still has funding for free milkweeds for schools and educational non-profits. This grant is separate from the above restoration grant and allows one free flat per qualified applicant, to be planted in a public garden:  Read about this program


Save milkweed seed

Photo credit to MEI member Dave Johnson
Monarch Watch is seeking volunteers to collect wild native milkweed seeds for the Bring Back the Monarchs campaign. Thanks to the donations of over 90 seed sources from across the United States, Monarch Watch was able to distribute more than 50,000 native milkweeds this past spring. But they could have distributed more! 

For information on what seeds are needed and how to collect them, go to the following link:

Also, here is a video that explains how to collect milkweed seeds from pods.

And if you want to plant milkweed seeds in the ground this fall, you can read about it here.


Monarch Butterflies are roosting!

Monarchs roosting SW Cedar Rapids.
It has been reported by a Monarchs in Eastern Iowa group member that she observed a monarch butterfly roost at her home on the SW side of Cedar Rapids, near Fairfax!  The migration is here and will peak in mid-September for this region.  Keep your eyes open for clusters of monarch butterflies in the trees near dusk and report them to Journey North at this page - http://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/monarch_roosts_fall2017.html


Sending Monarchs south with tags

Photo by Dave Johnson
We are heavy into monarch butterfly raising and several of our group have raised over 100!  Soon it will be time to start tagging the last generation of monarchs that will make their way to their over-wintering grounds in Mexico.  If you haven't ordered tags to tag your monarchs, please do ASAP!  

How to order tags:  http://help.monarchwatch.org/kb/article/49-monarch-tagging-process#howtoorder

If you haven't tagged monarchs before, read up on it at Monarch Watch website.

The peak time for Monarchs migrating through our area (Cedar Rapids/Iowa City is latitude 41) is September 8th - 20th.

From Dave Johnson, MEI member:   How to handle a butterfly. Make sure when you pick one up you put your fingers such that all 4 wings are being held, and that you hold from the front of the wing. That will allow your other hand to put the tag on and press to attach.

Photo by Dave Johnson


2017 RAGBRAI Milkweed Seedball Initiative a Great Success

From our good friends at Milkweed Matters:

Can you believe it? Milkweed Matters quite easily distributed over 60,000 common milkweed seedballs to more than 7,000 RAGBRAI riders just a few weeks ago. This year's seedballs were rolled by almost 3,500 Iowans at more than 80 educational events across the state. Whether you rolled seedballs, tossed them into a roadside, donated supplies, offered valuable advice, or simply have liked our Facebook page....THANK YOU! Milkweed Matters would not survive without the support of literally thousands of people who believe in the power of "crowd-planting." Here's hoping the seeds will germinate and provide invaluable habitat for Monarchs and their friends.

Click this link to find four important steps needed to happen in order for this important work to continue!

Also visit Milkweed Matters!


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!