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. Identifying and protecting existing habitat areas from mowing or 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 benefits honeybees and native pollinators, which are critical in the pollination of many agricultural crops. Setting aside small areas of habitat near or within crops that require pollinatoion can provide food and shelter to support a healthy local pollinator population and improve yields.
Photo by Denise Ellsworth, The Ohio State University.
Key Habitat Components
- 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.
- Reduced insecticide use in or surrounding habitat. 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. NRCS, local conservation districts, Pheasants Forever, USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, etc.) to aid in these processes.
Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Guides (WHEG)
Cost-share for 10 key monarch breeding states in central U.S. WHEGs provide in-depth assessment of habitat quality.
|Farm Service Agency||Conservation Reserve Program Honey Bee Initiative notice||Incentives and activities to increase monarch and pollinator habitat in the Upper Midwest.|
|US Fish and Wildlife Service||Private landowner assistance program to support conservation projects.|
|National Fish and Wildlife Foundation||Monarch Butterfly and Pollinators Conservation Fund||Grants available for both habitat improvement projects and outreach and organization coordination.|
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.
|Commission for Environmental Cooperation||Monarch Conservation Toolbox||Website with best management practices, incentive programs, and pilot projects to maintain and creat monarch habitat.|
|BASF||Living Acres Research Initiative||Research initiative focusing on best management practices to increase diversity with modern ag operations.|
|Syngenta||Operation Pollinator||International biodiversity program to increase pollinators on commercial farms by creating specific habitats.|
Habitat Quantification Tool (HQT) and Calculator
Incentive program that enables incentive payments to be directed to priority habitat restoration and conservation sites based on habitat quality (HQT).
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||Technical information about seed source, seed mix design, and habitat establishment in Iowa as well as demonstration habitats and educational events.|
|Xerces Society||Simple tools for habitat planning and assessment.|
|Monarch Joint Venture||Simple tools for habitat planning, habitat assessment, and management.|
The Farm Bill biologist program is designed to educate farmers and landowners about the benefits of conservation programs, as well as assist those landowners after programs have been implemented. It's the ‘One Stop Shop’ for anything conservation and wildlife-related on private lands.
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever offer seed mixes that meet all USDA conservation standards as well as projects not associated with a USDA program that benefit birds, bees and butterflies.
|Pollinator Partnership Canada||Pollinator Partnership Canda provides EcoRegional Planting Guides and Technical Guides for Land Managers for farmers and land managers looking to improve pollinator habitat on their land in Canada.|
|Sustainable Ag Resources|
|Honey Bee Health Coalition||Soybean Best Management Practices||While emphasizing honey bees, this coalition offers resources applicable to pollinator conservation more broadly.|
|Monarch Collaboritive (Keystone Policy Center)||Farmers for Monarchs||This collaboration brings together ag industry, conservation organizations, and agencies to integrate monarch work into agricultural areas.|
|Farm Bill Conservation Resources||Information about the Farm Bill's connection to conservation and how landowners and hunters can engage. The MJV does not endore policy statements made by external organizations.|
Education and Monitoring
As a steward of the land, you can demonstrate how agriculture and habitat conservation practices go hand-in-hand. Host field days to share information with 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 observing habitat on your farm or ranch. The primary monarch citizen science opportunities are described here.
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:
- Prairie on Farms, Dysart Iowa (Tallgrass Prairie Center)
- Door Creek Orchard Biodiversity
- Quail Trap Prairie
- Hope for Change at SLFF
- Corn Soybean Digest: Fredricks Stops Farming Unprofitable Acres
- Pest control and pollination cost – benefit analysis of hedgerow restoration in a simplified agricultural landscape, Morandin, Long & Kremen, 2016
- Pollinators provide economic incentive to preserve natural land in agroecosystems, Morandin & Winston, 2006
- Regenerative agriculture: merging farming and natural resource conservation profitably, LaCanne & Lundgren, 2018