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Monarch larva feed on Milkweed, which grows in abundance along North Country roadsides. Photo: Wikipedia
Monarch larva feed on Milkweed, which grows in abundance along North Country roadsides. Photo: Wikipedia

Adk group fights to protect Monarch butterflies from road mowing

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A non-profit group in the Adirondacks is urging highway departments to avoid mowing roadsides whenever possible over the next two months.

The group Adirondack Action says mowing can disturb areas used by Monarch butterflies as part of their summer reproduction cycle.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

Adirondack Action has focused on road-related issues before - urging highway departments and DOT crews to use less road salt in winter because it can contaminate lakes and waterways.

They're imperiled so terribly right now that any little thing you can do helps. -Marsha Stanley, Adirondack Action
Now the group is urging mowing crews to avoid mowing in July and August in order to protect stands of Milkweed that often grow in disturbed areas. Monarch larvae — also known as caterpillars — appear to feed almost exclusively on milkweed.

"They start to arrive here about July 1st," says Marsha Stanley with Adirondack Action. "During July and August if you cut the Milkweed when you're on there, you're destroying the eggs, the caterpillar."

Preserving milkweed stands and protecting reproduction habitat has become a big part of the fight to maintain fragile Monarch butterfly populations.

Butterflies that survive their cycle in the North Country journey to the mountains of Mexico to overwinter. Photo: Brian Mann, Susan Waters
Butterflies that survive their cycle in the North Country journey to the mountains of Mexico to overwinter. Photo: Brian Mann, Susan Waters
Stanley says her group sent a letter to every state, county and local highway department in the Park explaining the situation. She says some highway superintendents have been receptive.

"The highway superintendent for Franklin County was very receptive and said he would like to help if he could," Stanley said. "He communicated to the towns, in the process of doing the work for the county, please abide by the mow times if you can."
The North Country is one leg of the migration cycle for many Monarchs, which overwinter in Mexico.

Adirondack Action has also sponsored the screening of a film about Monarchs called "Flight of the Butterflies" at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The film opens locally July 6 and will show at the museum over the next year.

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