Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

USFWS seeks landowners to help conserve habitat for monarch butterflies in NC.

Hard-to-find milkweed plants offered at no cost to landowners.

News Bulletin

August 4, 2015

A colorful custer of monarch butterflies drapes a shrub at St. Marks National Wildife Refuge in Florida. Photo by: David Moynahan.

Contact: Lilibeth.serrano@gmail.com, 252-933-2255

Migrating monarch butterflies are getting new hope in the Piedmont of North Carolina.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, in cooperation with the North Carolina Botanical Garden, is seeking landowners in selected parts of North Carolina who are interested in creating and/or maintaining meadows to conserve monarch butterflies.

“We are looking for farmers, foresters, ranchers and other landowners interested in turning one or more acres of

fallow fields or meadows west of I-95 into a welcome sight for the monarchs,” explained John Ann Shearer, USFWS biologist.  Qualifying landowners can receive up to 20

milkweed plants per acre at no cost to them. A commitment to plant in October 2015 and maintain the plants in the future is required.

Common milkweed is hard to find commercially.  It occurs naturally in the Piedmont and mountains of North Carolina, but local nurseries usually don’t sell or grow it because it has low ornamental value and it spreads.  Unlike other flowering seasonal milkweeds with strong visual appeal, the common milkweed lacks charm, but it compensates in ecological value. Given how inaccessible this critical plant is, the USFWS decided to invest in its future by partnering with the NC Botanical Garden who is handling seed collection and propagation.   

Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed. The adults lay their eggs on milkweed plants and the caterpillars that emerge eat only milkweed. There is not as much milkweed on our landscape as

there used to be. Planting native milkweeds can help revert the loss. Monarch butterflies use open fields and meadows, places where grasses and wildflowers are already growing.

“Only a portion of a property could be enough to make a positive

Monarch caterpillar found at the Wilkerson City of Raleigh Park, nineteen days after common milkweed was planted. Photo by Bryan England, Asst. Manager, Wilkerson Nature Preserve.

difference and there is no requirement for public access. Private landowners are stewards of the land, and effective land managers. We want to provide landowners with the tools to create or enhance habitat for wildlife in cost-effective ways, " clarified Shearer.

Eligibility criteria

Qualifications for large-scale monarch habitat:
- Located west of I-95 in North Carolina
- One or more acres of open fields and grasslands currently devoid of milkweed
- Willingness to avoid disturbance April – November
- Willingness and ability to keep in an early successional state by mowing, burning, or disking
- Willingness and ability to plant sites in October 2015

In addition to large scale monarch habitats, consideration will be given to a limited number of small butterfly gardens in which

milkweed may be grown while also providing an educational site for students or the public.

Qualifications for butterfly garden:
- Located west of I-95 in North Carolina
- Ability to maintain garden
- Garden available to students and/or public
- Willingness and ability to plant in October 2015

Monarch egg on a common milkweed plant by Bryan England Asst. Manager at the Wilkerson Nature Preserve in Raleigh, NC

How to express interest:
If you qualify and are interested, please send the information below to  John Ann Shearer, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Coordinator for North Carolina at johnann_shearer@fws.gov Please put MILKWEED REQUEST in your subject line.

  • Property Name
  • Landowner
  • Contact Person (if different than landowner)
  • Property Address
  • County
  • Acres to be planted
  • Property’s current condition (fallow ag field, open meadow, pasture, garden, etc.)
  • Property Map

Requests will be prioritized based on the site condition, location, size, degree of protection, ability to be maintained, landscape context, and other such factors. Planting instructions will be made available and participants will be asked to sign a one-page agreement acknowledging their intent to plant and maintain the milkweed for monarchs. 

To view aVideo about a sample Partners for Fish and Wildlife project in NC, visit https://youtu.be/4X16xAqmInA.  Please remember, each project is unique.

Other links:

http://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/ (video, educational resources)



Last Updated: August 6, 2015