Volunteers plant milkweed for monarchs

Photo providedMidWestOne Bank volunteers plant milkweed plants at the Environmental Learning Center.

OSKALOOSA — Monarch butterflies will have a much-needed supply of food near the Environmental Learning Center.

Milkweed plants were planted by volunteers from MidWestOne Bank.

Shirley Holub said Musco supplied the milkweed seeds. She estimated around 500 have been given out over the last three years, with over 200 this year.

"People plant them to help the butterflies," she said. "A lot of people are trying to establish ways to help them, so a lot of the Musco team members take them home and plant them to help them out."

Holub said milkweed is Monarch butterflies' only food source.

"There aren't any in ditches or anything anymore because everybody sprays," she said. "There just isn't much for them to feed on."

Holub said the milkweeds planted have an elongated, narrow pod and the blooms are a darker pink.

"So they're a little bit different than the others," she said, "but the butterflies really like them."

Mahaska County Conservation Board Executive Director Dave Sedevic said Ben Hoskinson, county roadside manager, grew the plants from seed and helped the volunteers plant. The plants are all native to Iowa.

It's important to provide habitat for pollinators like butterflies and bees, Sedevic said.

"We're down drastically, significantly for butterflies, but even insects like honeybees. And they're very important for soybeans; a farmers crop, they need to be pollinated," he said. "So by planting these other pollinators to get the animals though the year. If they bloom at different times, that allows these insects to forage on different species throughout the year and then they're helped."