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MASON CITY, Iowa - Monarch butterfly populations have plummeted 90 percent over the last 20 years, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is looking to reverse that by advocating milkweed planting.
The DNR, along with the Iowa Department of Agriculture, is aiming to create 480,000 to 830,000 acres for habitat, with enough room for 127 to 188 million new milkweed stems.
The milkweed is the only plant monarch butterflies lay their eggs on. In addition, milkweeds can also be used as a defense mechanism, says Todd Von Ehwegen, Cerro Gordo Co. Conservation Education Manager.
"Milkweeds have a toxin in them, so when they eat them, it puts that toxin in their bodies. So when a blue jay tries to eat them, it makes them taste bad," Von Ehwegen says.
In addition, Von Ehwegen says that it's more feasible for the public to help in assisting pollinators like the monarch because of needs.
"When the bald eagle was endangered, it's hard to really know what to do, to help in your own yard. They have such large habitat needs. That's the great thing about monarch butterflies and pollinator species, though. Everybody can plant a few plants in their yard to help them out," Von Ehwegen adds.
The Cerro Gordo Co. Conservation Board has a program called 'Monarch Mania' with tips and advice on how to help monarchs.