It Doesn’t Take Much

In my nearly thirty years of habitat restoration efforts, one thing I’ve learned is that nature will respond to even the most miniscule of efforts to restore habitat.

My family’s 2.5 acre prairie restoration and small adjoining windbreak in North Central Iowa which started as a field of corn stubble in1988, has yielded results far exceeding what we expected. The habitat we’ve nurtured has attracted prairie birds like meadowlarks and dickcissels. Migrant prairie birds like American Golden plovers and upland sandpipers. A multitude of butterlies and dragonflies that I need to learn to identify. Early in our efforts, there was the signs of a badger. The Summer prairie teems with life.

In the windbreak we planted, the common yellowthroat sings from the honeysuckle bushes at the edge of the prairie. Brown thrashers lurk in the denser parts of the windbreak, and a male song sparrow bursts with song from gray dogwood.

Not bad for a former field of corn stubble. It doesn’t take much effort to bring nature back, the will to do so is the first step.

The End of the Monarch Butterfly

What was once common is no longer common. The monarch butterfly, arguably the most recognizable butterfly in North America is apparently headed towards extinction. The causes of its demise are twofold: Destruction of the forests in Mexico where it spends the winter and the destruction of milkweed plants on which its larvae feed. I remember this butterfly being the first butterfly I recall as child growing up in Iowa. Last year I saw none. Scientists say the population began crashing around 2010.

The monarch lays its eggs on milkweed plants in the United States, however these milkweed plants are being lost to powerful new herbicides wiping the plant out of the ditches, end rows, and fencelines of the American Midwest. Without the milkweed, there is no monarch butterfly.

But there is something anyone can do to help the monarch butterfly. PLANT MILKWEED species in your yard along with other nectar producing flowers. Monarch butterflies will readily lay eggs in milkweed plants planted in a suburban setting. SO THIS IS ONE SPECIES THE AVERAGE PERSON CAN HELP BY PLANTING MILKWEED IN THEIR YARD.

As for sources of milkweed, seek out seed from milkweed plants in your area. Common milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca) is probably the most common milkweed and can still be found in many areas like ditches and prairie remnants. But there are other milkweed species out there like swamp milkweed and butterflyweed to name a few. Seek out milkweed seed for free in ditches and prairie remnants where possible. Otherwise, milkweed seed can be purchased from many nurseries that specialize in native prairie species.

Here is one source:

And check out this organization who’s mission is to save the monarch butterfly:

The bottom line is that we can save the monarch butterfly from extinction if we act now!

MORE INFORMATION on the monarch’s demise:

New York Times Article on Monarchs


The Monarch Butterfly


Common Milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca) in bloom


Common Milkweed seed pod


Butterflyweed (Asclepias Tuberosa)


Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias Incarnata)