You and Ohio's prisoners can help monarch butterflies, here's how

Updated: Sep. 28, 2017 at 5:43 PM EDT
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Monarch butterfly population is down 80 percent in the past 20 years. (Source: Cuyahoga Soil &...
Monarch butterfly population is down 80 percent in the past 20 years. (Source: Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Cuyahoga County Soil and water Conservation District (SWCD) is hoping you (and some of Ohio's prisoners) can help the monarch butterfly population and it starts with milkweed.

First off let's clear up that milkweed is not a weed, it's actually a wild flower, according to the Xerces Society.

The SWCD is involved in a program called "Milkweed for Monarchs" in which they are helping to increase the amount of milkweed around the area, in the hopes of helping the Monarch butterfly population.

Milkweed is the only plant the monarch butterfly uses for egg laying and caterpillar rearing.

It also serves as a food source for Monarchs as well as many other pollinator species," according to Amy Roskilly, a Conservation Education Specialist for the county.

As people destroy, cut down or pull out milkweed it's having a major impact on the monarch population.

"The disappearance of milkweed across the U.S. has contributed to the 80 percent decline of the eastern monarch butterfly population over the last 20 years," says Roskilly.

To understand why milkweed is so important you have to know a little bit about the migration pattern of the butterfly which moves from Mexico to Canada and back again every year.

In the spring they make their way from Mexico north. In late summer or early fall the butterflies have to start their way back south. Once they fly all the way across Lake Erie they need a place to rest.

That's why Roskilly says you'll see Monarchs in places like Whiskey Island and the north shore way.

When they land they need milkweed to lay eggs, that will turn into caterpillars, and then the caterpillars will eat milkweed which is the only source of food they are compatible with.

The first step would be to stop treating milkweed like a weed.

"When people realize how important these plants are to our habitat they work to protect it," said Roskilly.

Next you can help the state with it's seed collecting program. People are encourage to pick the milkweed seed pods when they are browns and dried out and drop them off at collection locations.

It's important that the pods are not picked when they are still green.

Those pods are then sent to work programs at several of Ohio's prisons where they are processed and the seeds are then sent all over the state for fall planting.

"This project started in 2015 as a seven county pilot and last year hundreds of Ohioans worked together to collect approximately 200 pounds of Common Milkweed pods. That is over 19 million seeds,"said Roskilly.

In Cleveland SWCD is asking you to harvest the milkweed seed pods and deliver them to:

Cuyahoga SWCD
3311 Perkins Ave., Suite 100
Cleveland, Ohio 44114

8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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