States along the I-35 Corridor, and many others, have been working to increase pollinator habitat along the corridor to increase awareness and education and have had many successes. Much work is being done to protect pollinators and increase food sources.
“With the monarch population’s significant decline, it’s now more important than ever to preserve these important habitats,” said Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle. “State roadways provide acres of habitat for pollinators, but that’s only a small portion needed for pollinator recovery. It’s important to build awareness and education along the I-35 corridor about pollinator needs on public and private lands to ensure monarch butterflies and other pollinators can flourish.”
Minnesota is among six state transportation departments and the Federal Highway Administration that signed a memorandum of understanding in 2016 designed to improve pollinator habitat along Interstate 35, a key migratory corridor for monarch butterflies. The MOU informally identifies the 1,500-mile I-35 corridor as the “Monarch Highway.”
This partnership demonstrates a broad commitment toward preserving the monarch butterfly and other pollinators.
In Minnesota, MnDOT is increasing the use of native plants on roadsides and is expanding the agency’s prescribed fire program to further enhance existing native vegetation and habitats. MnDOT is also collaborating with researchers, other governments, and nonprofit organizations to better understand roadside habitat use by pollinators. The use of flowering plants has even attracted the federally endangered rusty-patched bumble bee to roadside in St. Paul.
During the last 20 years, the monarch population has decreased due mainly to the loss of the milkweed plant that serves as both a nectar source for adult monarchs and food for monarch caterpillars. Without any action to preserve them, these pollinators may disappear.
“While much remains to be done to combat a multitude of contributing factors to pollinator declines, such as disappearing pollinator habitat and the use of pesticides, National Pollinator Week is a chance to reflect and celebrate the achievements that have been done this year,” Zelle said. “It helps raise awareness of the important role pollinators play in our daily lives.”
Monarch butterflies hatched in late summer or early fall migrate south to winter in Mexico. In the spring, the butterflies return to the southern United States and lay eggs. Successive generations of monarchs continue moving north, which takes them along the I-35 corridor and finally into the northern United States and Canada. These monarchs begin the cycle over again by completing the 1,500-mile trek back to Mexico.