Collect milkweed pods to help monarchs

By Chet Murphy - Fayette SWCD Director

Due to the drastic decline in the population of the Monarch butterfly, the Fayette Soil & Water Conservation District (Fayette SWCD) is partnering with the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI).

They are seeking public involvement to collect and drop off common and swamp milkweed seed pods from established plants, Sept.1 through Oct. 30. The seeds will be used to establish new plantings and create additional habitat for the Monarch butterfly throughout Ohio in the coming years.

A collection station will be located at the Fayette SWCD office at the Fayette Ag Center, 1415 US 22 Southwest, Washington Court House. Waste Management Corporation and Ohio EPA have agreed to donate a 96-gallon enclosed container to use for pod collection.

“Common and swamp milkweed is essential to the survival of Monarch Butterflies in Ohio,” said Marci Lininger, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Ohio is a priority area for Monarchs. This generation of Monarchs are also responsible for starting the life cycle all over again in the spring, and laying the following year’s first generation of Monarchs in late summer.”

Seed pods from common or swamp milkweed should be collected when the pods are dry and gray or brown in color. If the center seam pops with gentle pressure, they can be picked. It is best to collect pods into paper bags or paper grocery sacks. Avoid using plastic bags because they can attract moisture and allow mold to develop. Store seeds in a cool, dry area until you can deliver to the pod collection station. It is recommended to wear disposable gloves when picking and handling pods. Harvesting seed pods from milkweed plants will not have any effect on the population of milkweed in established areas.

OPHI was formed in response to the 2014 petition to list the Monarch butterfly as federally endangered. Its partners include state of Ohio agencies, universities, corporations, and non-profit organizations. OPHI’s mission is to inform citizens, landowners, farmers, and government agencies of the importance of pollinators and the habitat they need to survive. Members of the initiative are a core group of professionals that provide education, outreach, and technical assistance to all that have an interest in pollinators and protecting our food supply.

For more information on OPHI or the seed pod collection, contact OPHI at (614) 416-8993 or Fayette SWCD at (740) 636-0279.

By Chet Murphy

Fayette SWCD Director