Gardens, lawns, fields, roadsides, right-of-ways all provide vital habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. How we manage this habitat must be done with care to help protect our monarchs!
When are monarchs present in my area?
Timing is crucial when planning your mowing and other land management practices. To find out where the monarchs are, you can view up-to-date monarch observations at Journey North or Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper.
Remember that this will vary each year.
In addition, you can conduct your own survey by checking your milkweed patch/field daily.
Once you understand where the monarchs are and when they will be visiting your habitat, you can create a strategic mowing plan.
Limit the frequency of your mowing
Mowing milkweed mid-summer in areas where there is a lull in monarch activity, such as the Southern Great Plains, may promote milkweed growth and late summer or early fall breeding (Baum and Mueller 2015; Fischer et al. 2015). Always, do a quick survey for monarchs before mowing and check Journey North's website to see where the monarch is in their migration.
Leave a pollinator refuge area
Instead of mowing the entire area, leave refuge areas that may be good for nesting or overwintering sites for pollinators and other wildlife. If necessary, make a sign that indicates that site is an overwintering refuge.
Avoid mowing milkweed and blooming flowers
Blooming flowers provide essential nectar sources for pollinators. In addition, check to see if the flowers have began dispersing their seeds.
Increase your cutting height
Increasing your cutting height by a few inches will remove the seed heads of the invasive plants while still providing some habitat for other bugs and pollinators to thrive.
Fischer, S. J., Williams, E. H., Brower, L. P., & Palmiotto, P. A. (2015). Enhancing monarch butterfly reproduction by mowing fields of common milkweed. The American Midland Naturalist, 229-240.
Habitat Enhancement and Best Management Practices in Highway Rights-of-Way.” Prepared by The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in collaboration with ICF International. 68 pp. Washington, D.C.: Federal Highway Administration.
Journey North. journeynorth.org/monarchs
Knight, S. M., Norris, D. R., Derbyshire, R., & Flockhart, D. T. (2019). Strategic mowing of roadside milkweeds increases monarch butterfly oviposition. Global Ecology and Conservation, 19, e00678.
Monarch Joint Venture. Mowing and Management: Best Practices for Monarchs.
Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper. https://www.monarchmilkweedmapper.org/