Partnering to conserve the monarch butterfly migration

Agricultural Producer

Agricultural Producer

The monarch butterfly population is in decline due to loss of habitat that includes their host plant - milkweed! Increasing polliantor habitat in agricultural areas is key to restoring monarch populations. With the help of agricultural producers, we can reach our national goal of 1.8 billion additional milkweed plants and other wildflowers on the landscape. 

Agricultural lands are rich with opportunities to provide monarch habitat, from fallow fields, hedgerows, marginal cropland, field margins, and the yards and gardens around our homes. Native prairie or grassland plantings for monarchs can also be incorporated into farm buffer systems (such as filter strips, grassed waterways, roadside embankments, and septic drainage fields). Even without installing new habitat, there are many ways to support healthier monarch populations in agricultural areas; reducing mowing and protecting existing habitat areas from potential pesticide drift are simple actions to take to promote monarch recovery. There is room on every farm or ranch to incorporate monarch habitat in some way.

Conservation actions you take on your farm, ranch, or backyard, no matter what size, can provide additional economic gain as well as ecological benefits.Monarch habitat also benefits honeybees and native pollinators, which are critical in the pollination of many agricultural crops..   

Photo by Denise Ellsworth, The Ohio State University. 

Key Habitat Components

 
  • Native flowers planted in marginal crop areas, fallow fields, hedgerows, and farm field margins to provide food for adult butterflies
  • A combination of early, middle and late blooming species, with overlap in flowering times to fuel pollinators and butterfly breeding and migration
  • Native milkweeds to provide food for monarch caterpillars
  • Limited use of herbicides within and surrounding the habitat only to control invasive or noxious weeds.
  • No insecticide use in or surrounding habitat to minimize risk of drift. Use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to control unwanted pests. 
  • Habitat management plan to ensure successful establishment and longevity of habitat 

Habitat Creation or Enhancement Opportunities and Considerations

Once you have identified a parcel(s) of land to improve or restore habitat for monarchs, you'll need to be connected with the right tools, partners, and information to ensure your habitat is the best it can be! The table below illustrates incentive programs, planning tools, best management practices, habitat assessment tools, and more for establishing monarch habitat in agricultural areas. In addition to what is listed below, consult with your local conservation agents or technical service providers (i.e. NRCSlocal conservation districtsPheasants ForeverUSFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, etc.) to aid in these processes.

Organizations Tools/Resources Description

Using Farm Bill Programs for Pollinator Conservation

Working Lands Monarch Storymap

Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Guides (WHEG)

Financial assistance

Cost-share for 10 key monarch breeding states in central U.S. WHEGs provide in-depth assessment of habitat quality.
US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Private landowner assistance program to support conservation projects. 
Seed and financial assistance
Innovative solution for landowners to receive seed and contract payments to turn underutilized acreage into productive habitat designed for both honeybees and monarchs. 
Habitat Quantification Tool (HQT) and Calculator
Financial assistance
Incentive program that enables incentive payments to be directed to priority habitat restoration and conservation sites based on habitat quality (HQT). 
Incentive programs
Federal, state and local funding, incentive and financial/technical assistance programs to help conserve land and estates. 
Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) Farmland conservation practice Research and demonstration of integrating small amounts of native plant habitat into strategic locations within row crop fields to yield benefits for soil, water and biodiversity. 
Tallgrass Prairie Center

Prairie On Farms 

Iowa Prairie Seed Calculator

Habitat Establishment Guidelines

Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management

Habitat Signage

Technical information about seed source, seed mix design, and habitat establishment in Iowa as well as demonstration habitats and educational events. 
Xerces Society

Pollinator Habitat Assessment Guide 

Farming for Bees

Regional nectar plant lists

Pollinators and Roadsides

Pollinator Habitat Installation Guide

Simple tools for habitat planning and assessment. 
Monarch Joint Venture

Monarch Habitat Assessment Tool

Mowing: Best Practices for Monarchs

Milkweed and Monarch Misconceptions

www.plantmilkweed.org

Downloads and Links

Simple tools for habitat planning, habitat assessment, and management. 
Sustainable Ag Resources

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education

ATTRA Sustainable Ag 

 
 
 

Education and Monitoring

As a steward of the land, you can demonstrate how production agriculture and habitat conservation practices go hand-in-hand. Host field days to share information about your neighbors about how habitat for monarchs and pollinators fits on your farm and within your lifestyle. Establish a relationship with local technical service providers or conservation NGOs to share experiences and opportunities for further collaboration. Many certification programs are available to register or certify your habitat for increased exposure and generating awareness. Use these to share your story and display signage to draw attention to the site and its value for monarchs and pollinators.

You can also provide valuable information about how monarchs are utilizing habitat in agricultural areas through citizen science. These projects provide a fun opportunity to engage your kids, grandkids, or other family members in your monarch/pollinator project. The primary monarch citizen science opportunities are described here.

Case Studies

Farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers of all varieties are implementing monarch habitat restoration on their properties. Below are some compelling examples of practitioners befitting from pollinator habitat along with the monarchs:

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