COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Monarch butterfly populations have decreased by 80% over the last 20 years mostly because of habitat loss, according to the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
Organizations across the state, including the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), The Ohio State University and the Franklin Park Conservatory are doing their part to help support Ohio’s native pollinators.
On Wednesday, it was the first day of planting for ODOT near the entrance of I-71 near Hudson Street.
“We want to have a pollinator habitat in every county and we’re well on our way,” said ODOT pollinator habitat coordinator Joel Hunt. “We have 150 acres to develop this spring and we’re talking thousands of acres over the next few years.”
Hunt said they’re using roadsides to plant native grasses and plants, like milkweed, that’s essential for a monarch’s survival. ODOT will also stop mowing certain areas to allow natural wildflowers to reemerge.
Besides saving taxpayer dollars by decreasing mowing on the roadsides, ODOT hopes these pollinator habitats will also serve as a beautification project.
“Because we manage the most land of any public entity in Ohio, we have the opportunity and really the responsibility to use that land responsibly,” he said. “The monarch butterfly is really driving the bus, but we’re helping all pollinators.”
Monarchs and other butterflies used to be a common sight in Ohio. Now, one of the few places you can be guaranteed to find them is at the Franklin Park Conservatory.
“We’ve lost a lot of their natural habitat that’s why these fragments are so important,” said OSU Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens director Mary Maloney.
At the arboretum, they created a pollinator hillside or waystation.
“We include plants that butterflies, in particular monarch butterflies, need on their north to south, south to north, annual migrations,” she said.
Maloney said they encourage homeowners to do their part to include native plants, like milkweed, in the gardens.
“I think ecosystems are impacted by these loses and we need to be very deliberate in how we’re working to remedy these situations,” she said.
The Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife has private lands biologist that cover each county in Ohio. They are available to make site visits, offer recommendations and provide guidance for improving wildlife habitat on properties. It’s a free service. You can find more information at this link by clicking here.