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Patches of Milkweed To Stay Unmowed for Migrating Monarchs

August 21, 2015

Patchs of Milkweed to Stay Unmowed for Migrating Monarchs

At the urging of the Talbot County Council, both State Highway Administration and Talbot County road crews have pledged to leave some patches of milkweed unmowed in the Bay Hundred area until November 1 to benefit migrating butterflies.

Milkweed is a favorite food for Monarch butterflies, many of whom pass through Talbot County as they migrate to warmer climates in the winter. These orange-and-black butterflies cannot survive cold temperatures, and thus embark on a treacherous journey to the mountains of Mexico where they overwinter in that country's oyamel fir forests. They return by the same route each spring.

Leaving patches of milkweed and other nectar-producing plants such as lantana, goldenrod and Joe Pye weed along Talbot County's roadsides this fall will give migrating monarchs safe places to feed before they make their late summer-early fall trip. Though monarchs can travel up to 100 miles a day, it takes them up to two months to complete the entire 3,000-mile journey. Their success depends on being able to find ample sources of food along their route.

 Changing the mowing schedule for the county's roadsides may seem like a small thing, but every little bit helps in the fight to save a species. Studies show that monarch numbers have declined by as much as 90 percent over the past 20 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering adding the monarch to the threatened species list, and many groups are beginning to address the issues plaguing these butterflies.

Talbot County Council woman Jennifer Williams applauds the efforts of the road crews to do their part to preserve the monarch's habitat.

"As a beekeeper, I am well aware of the decline in habitat for our pollinators including both monarchs butterflies and honeybees," she explains. "I am delighted that Talbot County is being proactive in this area, including not mowing areas of milkweed growing along County roads and using more pollinator-friendly plants for landscape needs on County properties."

"When the roads department receives a request to leave a portion of a County road unmowed because of habitat concerns, we will do our best to comply," says Talbot County Roads Superintendent Warren Edwards. However, if the unmowed patches cause flooding or become a safety hazard, road crews will be forced to intervene.

Marcus L. Palmer, assistant resident maintenance engineer for District 2, says SHA will mow when there are site distance obstructions, but he has also committed to hold off on mowing the Bay Hundred area.

"We don't mind waiting until November 1," says Palmer. "SHA is happy to help provide habitat for the monarch butterflies as they make their journey south."

For more information, contact Andy Hollis, County Manager's Office, (410) 770-8010.

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