Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Roadsides Not Best Place for Planting Monarch-Critical Milkweed, Study Finds

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Roadsides Not Best Place for Planting Monarch-Critical Milkweed, Study Finds

Article excerpt

Size, location matters when it comes to monarch-critical milkweed

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TORONTO - Efforts aimed at reversing a steep decline in the monarch butterfly population by planting traditionally unloved milkweed need to take into account the size and location of the planted patches, new Canadian research indicates.

The study, out of the University of Guelph, finds that restoring milkweed along roadways is less effective than doing so on agricultural lands. Milkweed is critical to the survival of the monarch population because it's believed to be the only plant the butterflies feed on as caterpillars.

"Roadside patches, which received half the number of eggs compared to agricultural landscapes, may potentially pose a number of threats to monarchs because of vehicle collision and accumulation of noxious chemicals," the study's authors write.

"A better strategy may be for managers to develop incentive programs with landowners to plant and maintain milkweeds in agricultural landscapes."

The research, published in the journal Biological Conservation, looked at what monarch butterflies prefer when it comes to laying eggs on milkweed.

Milkweed plants on farm land, according to the two-year study carried out primarily by now graduated master's student Grace Pitman, have more than three times the amount of monarch eggs than those growing in urban gardens and roadsides. That might be because female monarchs can find the plants more easily in agricultural fields.

"Based on these findings, it will be important to develop programs with landowners and other pollinator initiatives or ecosystem service programs to actively restore milkweed in agricultural landscapes," the authors write. "Ideal areas for planting milkweed patches are crop margins, field corners, and other marginalized cropland within close proximity to crop fields."

At the same time, small patches in gardens and urban parks can still be useful for adult monarchs to lay eggs and find nectar for themselves, the paper states. …

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