Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Program – First Year Successes

We recently completed our first and pilot season of the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Program here at the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center. This program is dedicated to enhancing habitat for and monitoring populations of both monarch butterflies and native pollinator species. This program is a collaboration with the Siskiyou Land Trust and the Boys and Girls Club.

Milkweed is the one type of plant that is necessary to maintain robust monarch populations. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants in June and July and their larvae exclusively eat milkweed as the grow prior to pupating and becoming butterflies. We began by collecting milkweed seeds in late September with the help of community members in areas around Weed and Mount Shasta. Many of our supporters donated milkweed seeds to help collection efforts, huge thanks to those who kind folks who took time to collect and donate!

We completed our season with two presentations at the Boys and Girls Club which included presentations and activities. Our first series of activities gave students a look at how important butterflies are as pollinators in our area and how they help support not only native flower species but food plants as well. They learned about the importance of milkweed to the monarch life cycle and how we can help increase the number of milkweed plants in our areas to support monarchs.

Students helped us process our collected milkweed seeds by removing the floss (which, ethnobotanically speaking, is a very valuable source of insulation similar to eiderdown) and making small clay spheres filled with soil and milkweed seeds. We took our ‘seed bombs’ out to Sisson Meadow (a place that has all the qualities of ideal monarch habitat) and distributed them in the meadow. Milkweed seeds need to be exposed to cold in order to germinate and grow and making sure that collected seeds have been dispersed prior to the cold season is a great way to increase rates of germination.

We are so grateful to Siskiyou Land Trust and the Boys and Girls Club for their help increasing awareness of the importance of monarch butterflies and native pollinators and creating habitat in which they can flourish!