Monday, May 22, 2017

Pollinator Preservation Part I: KDOT plants wildflowers and more

A Monarch Butterfly rests atop a flower. Courtesy photo

There is a lot of buzz going around about the fact that several pollinator species are declining at surprising rates. The Kansas Department of Transportation, along with many other state DOTs in the Midwest, are doing something to change that.

KDOT’s Environmental Program Administrator Scott Shields said that KDOT is planting wildflower seed and milkweed plugs to benefit many pollinator species such as bees, wasps and butterflies.

“We have a pilot project and have planted approximately 15 acres of wildflower seed on the three plots around the safety rest areas southwest of Ottawa along I-35,” Shields said.
Engineering Technician Specialist through KDOT Right of Way Melissa Davidson said that this project is part of the Monarch Highway.
A poster illustrating the Monarch Highway. 

“This is an initiative launched in 2015 to create a multi-state partnership that brings together state transportation agencies and other partners along I-35 to catalyze conservation actions along the I-35 corridor and its neighboring communities that enhance habitat and engage people,” Davidson said.

Davidson said that KDOT was awarded a grant from the Monarch Joint Venture, a partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental agencies, and academic programs who are all working together to protect monarchs and their migration.

KDOT planted a wildflower mix which consisted of 23 different species. 
According to Davidson, the Monarch Joint Venture provided KDOT with 1152 milkweed plugs, consisting of three varieties: common, butterfly and antelope horn milkweed. Feyh Farms out of Alma provided KDOT’s wildflower mix, which consists of 23 different species of wildflowers and legumes.

Davidson said that the site will attract many pollinators such as butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, beetles, moths and even bats.

“These pollinators are necessary for crop and native plant pollination, which is crucial to the ecosystem,” she said. “Several butterfly and bee species are in decline, or have disappeared from parts of their range because of habitat loss. It is imperative to protect our natural environment to ensure the success of pollinators.”

Pollinators may not be the only ones who benefit and enjoy this site.

“The mix, once established, will provide a year-round color and blooming enjoyment for the traveling public,” Davidson said. “Patience is key when planting native wildflowers. It may take two to three growing seasons for them the be fully established and blooming.”

Check back in a few weeks when we see how some of these plants are doing! 


  1. Great Job! Our roadsides will be beautiful again soon...I can't wait!

  2. In my travels I have seen other states with flowers planted along the highway and thought it added such beauty to my travel! However, I think the most significant part of this entire project is this grand attempt at restoring precious habitat lost to human activity and thus rescuing those that are struggling to cope. I truly feel this must become our mission in everything we do or we are on a path that will see most species desperately struggling to 'survive humans'. Way to go Midwest DOT's!!

  3. This is such a good project. It is nice to see flowers when driving tbe roads and great for the bees and butterflies.