The Monarchs are coming!
Saturday, May 2, was National Start Seeing Monarch’s day. While we likely won’t see any Monarchs in Wisconsin just yet, they are making their way back north to their summer breeding grounds.
While the ones who left in the fall were headed all the way back to Mexico – fluttering away at 5.5 mph to make the 1,500-mile trek – we will welcome their great-great-great-grandchildren later this spring. The first-generation leaving Mexico only migrate as far north as Texas and Oklahoma. Generally, it’s the fourth generation that makes it to Wisconsin sometime between May and June.
Monarchs Population in Decline
Unfortunately, the eastern North American monarch butterfly population has declined by 90% in the past 20 years. Only 1 in 10 monarchs remain. Habitat loss has been identified is one of the main reasons for the decline.
While adult monarch butterflies sip nectar from a variety of native flowering plants like asters, coneflowers and ironweed, monarch larvae only eat milkweed. Monarchs are foul tasting and poisonous due to the presence of cardenolides in their bodies, which the caterpillars ingest from milkweed.
Helping Increase Pollinator Habitat
At ATC, we’re doing our part to help Monarchs and other pollinators. We’re members of the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative and part of the advisory committee for the Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterfly on Energy and Transportation Lands.
We developed a first-of-its-kind Pollinator Power Model to map and identify suitable pollinator habitat (e.g., meadows, pastureland, etc.) and gaps in pollinator pathways along our over 9,890 miles of transmission lines. This enables us to strategically enhance pollinator habitat in our service territory. We also use a specially-developed pollinator seed mix as part of our new and rebuild construction efforts.
Our Pollinator Habitat Program promotes vegetation that is both compatible with our vegetation management practices and provides habitat for pollinators, which use the utility corridor as a flight path. Since 2017, we’ve awarded approximately $45,000 to 10 entities to help them create pollinator habitats along our transmission corridor.
What You Can Do
We can all help butterflies by planting more flowers. In collaboration with nationally known gardening expert Melinda Myers, we developed two guides to identify vegetation that is similar to what we plant in our rights-of-way. These suggested native plants have deep root systems that will beautify your property and help attract bees, butterflies and birds. Visit atc-GrowSmart.com for resources and recommendations.