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Make your milkweed plants count for monarchs

Published by Central Office August 20, 2019

Contact(s): Brenna Jones, DNR conservation biologist, 608-267-0797

A Monarch butterfly on milkweed. - Photo credit: DNR
A Monarch butterfly on milkweed.Photo credit: DNR

New, free app tallies up habitat added in Wisconsin to benefit iconic butterfly

MADISON, Wis. - Seeking to reverse an over 80 % decline in monarch butterfly populations over the last 20 years, Wisconsin conservation biologists are urging gardeners, farmers, and other landowners to use a new, free mobile application to record the number of milkweed and wildflower nectar plants in their backyard or farmyard habitat.

The app, HabiTally, is aimed at improving data collection about pollinator habitats, and groups in Wisconsin and other states are using it to track progress toward reaching statewide and overall regional goals for restoring habitat for monarchs and other pollinators.

Information collected through the app will be completely anonymous and aggregated entirely at the county level.

"Entering information about the number of plants you now have or plan to plant can make your efforts count even more for monarchs," says Brenna Jones, coordinator of the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative and a conservation biologist with the DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation program.

The DNR is part of the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative, a coalition of more than 40 groups committed to working to voluntarily add 120 million new milkweed plants to Wisconsin by 2038.

"Not only will you be providing important breeding and feeding habitat for monarchs and other pollinators, but we can count your habitat toward Wisconsin's share of the overall goal," Jones says.

Wisconsin and 15 other Midwestern states in monarch summer breeding grounds have collectively agreed to add more than 1.3 billion milkweed plants to the region over the next 20 years.

Anyone can use the app, available as a free download for iOS devices from the App Store. Bayer and The Climate Corporation, with support from Iowa State University's Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology, collaborated to develop the app.

Drop a pin and add to the state, regional and national habitat tallies

To participate, HabiTally app users drop pins on a map to mark their conservation habitat location and enter basic, key characteristics of the habitat which include the estimated number of milkweeds, the percent of nectar flowers and, if known, the date the habitat was planted, according to Steve Bradbury, professor of natural resource ecology and management at Iowa State University involved in developing the app.

HabiTally will then automatically calculate the size of the habitat based on the user's entry and auto-populate information about the milkweed density and land use classification. Users can also record whether they have seen monarchs in their habitat, says Bradbury, of Iowa State University.

Users will be able to see national and state accounts of efforts logged within the app,

More information about the app, its development and partners can be found in this Aug.7 news release from Iowa State University.

The DNR's Jones says that everybody can add monarch habitat and enter their data, from people who plant a few milkweed or nectar flowers in pots on their balcony to landowners with a back 40, to farmers who can add milkweed and nectar producing wildflowers to non-productive areas including ditch banks, field margins, and farm yards.

"The modeling shows that every sector can do its part to help add monarch habitat, and that no effort is too small. It all adds up, and recent research in fact suggests that urban areas can play a big role."

Information on adding habitat specifically on farms, in urban areas, and along right of ways can be found on the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative website, www.wimonarchs.org.

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 20, 2019

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