Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pollinator preservation part II: Planting milkweed

This week is Pollinator Week and the Kansas Department of Transportation, along with five other state DOTs and the Federal Highway Administration, signed an agreement that will improve pollinator habitat along I-35, a key migratory corridor for Monarch butterflies.

A recent blog discussed how KDOT’s Environmental Services team, along with KDOT crews from the Ottawa area, planted approximately 15 acres of wildflower seeds on three plots of land around the Homewood rest area along I-35. This project will provide an increase in habitat to several pollinator species, whose populations are declining.

A close up view of a milkweed weed plug that was planted on May 23 by KDOT crews form the Ottawa Area Office. 
On May 23, KDOT employees returned to the rest areas to plant the 1,152 milkweed plugs that KDOT received from the Monarch Watch: butterfly milkweed and common milkweed.

KDOT workers plant milkweed plugs on May 23 near the Homewood rest area along I-35 in an effort to assist in rebuilding the pollinator habitat.
Engineering Technician Specialist Melissa Davidson in KDOT’s Right of Way said that there were several steps involved to ensure the 15 acres of land were ready for planting.

“KDOT staff burned the site to clear it from dead and overgrown plant material,” Davidson said. “Next, they pulled out any remaining cedars to prevent them from spreading.”

The first step in making this project happen was to burn away the dead and overgrown plant material.

Davidson said that after burning and clearing the area they disked the soil, or cultivated the soil, using a disk harrow to prepare for the wildflower seeds and milkweed plugs. 

Disking the soil helped cultivate it so the wildflower seedlings and milkweed plugs would grow in healthy soil.

“The Monarch butterfly will only lay eggs on milkweed and the larva will only eat milkweed,” Davidson said, “so it’s very important to the survival of the species to have milkweed available to them.”

Using an auger to dig the holes, the 1,152 milkweed plugs were planted.

KDOT crews planted 1,152 milkweed plugs on May 23, near the Homewood rest area along I-35 in an effort to create more pollinator habitat. 
Scott Shields, KDOT’s Environmental Program Administrator, said that although these milkweed and wildflower plants usually bloom during the early spring and summer months into late fall, it may be a couple of years before they all bloom.

“It depends on moisture and how hot the summers get,” Shields said. “This will influence how much they bloom out.”

A butterfly rests on a butterfly milkweed plant on Monday, June 19. Less than a month has passed since it was planted at the Homewood rest area. 
According to KDOT employees from the Ottawa office, the wildflowers and milkweed plugs are doing very well and a few plants are in bloom this year.

If you want to learn how you can help save pollinators and learn about what kind of flowers typically grow along Kansas highways, check out this graphic and go to 

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