The monarch butterfly is arguably one of the most iconic and popular butterflies in North America. Its annual multigenerational migration is considered one of the most spectacular natural phenomena on the planet. Unfortunately, estimates from the overwintering colonies in Mexico have documented a steady population decline over the past few decades and prompted a petition to list the butterfly as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Much attention has focused on the loss of breeding habitat, with recent studies indicating that an estimated 1.8 billion milkweed stems nationwide would be needed to return monarchs to a more viable population size. The Presidential Memorandum — Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators and the resulting Pollinator Research Action Plan specifically identify roadsides as priority areas where habitat could be expanded.
Ohio is critical to the survival of the Monarch because it provides food for the fourth generation (late summer/early fall) to fly to Mexico where they overwinter. In response, ODOT has identified, and is currently implementing proactive strategies designed to stabilize and ultimately reverse this population collapse, including converting existing right-of-way to roadside pollinator habitats.