Frequently Asked Questions for Project ReGrow Milkweed For Monarchs

Who can participate?

There are only two qualifications in order to participate! 1) Anyone with permission to access a common milkweed patch of any size can participate. 2) Anyone that can trim or mow back the milkweed patch (or get someone else to do it for them participate.

By 'citizen science' we mean science in which members of the public collect data -- this has nothing to do with your citizenship status in the US or any other country, and we want as many people as possible to participate!

Why participate?

We need your help! Because milkweed and monarchs have a wide distribution across the country, we need volunteers from all over to help us collect data we need to see the impact of milkweed regrowth on monarch populations


How do I join the project?

It is easy! Please sign up here to participate (or even if you’re just interested). Once you’re signed up we will email you with more info about upcoming webinars and instructions. Once milkweed is nearing flowering in your area you will need to submit a site registration form.


How do I submit data?

There will be three options for submitting data:

For one milkweed patch:

  1. Use this online data form
  2. Download our data collection smartphone/tablet app here. (will not work on computer).
  3. Download this paper data collection sheet to print, fill it out, and email us a picture or scan of it each week at MSURegrow@gmail.com 

For two milkweed patches:

  1. Use this online data form
  2. Download our data collection smartphone/tablet app here. (will not work on computer)
  3. Download this paper data collection sheet to print, fill it out, and email us a picture or scan of it each week at MSURegrow@gmail.com 


See the detailed instructions for more information on how to enter the data.


What will you do with this information?

We will use the data from this project to gather information about the impact of selectively trimming milkweed on monarch butterfly abundance. We will use statistics to analyze the data and see if we can see differences between trimming techniques, timing and other factors. We aim to publish our findings in a scientific journal that will information future conservation management and policies related to saving/protecting the monarch butterfly! We will be analyzing the data as it comes in this summer and will provide an update (data and graphs) on our website every week or two.


Will trimming my milkweed impact monarchs and other pollinators?

We have found the direct impacts of cutting back milkweeds to be small. The trimming is timed to have the least impact to the insect community so that even if a small number of monarch eggs are destroyed, this number is far outweighed by the number of extra eggs that will be laid once the milkweed regrows. While some insects are temporary displaced, they will quickly repopulate the existing surrounding vegetation.


I raise monarchs to breed. Can I remove the eggs and caterpillars from my milkweed?

No. Please do not remove eggs, caterpillars, or ANY insect from the milkweed being used for this study. We are tracking the development of these individuals over time and recording it on the datasheets. If they are removed, then we can not able to test their survival. Please source eggs from plants not being used for this study. Thank you!


 Will trimming the milkweed damage it?

Generally no. When a milkweed stem is cut or damaged naturally, it will regrow from the base of the cut stem or from roots belowground. Milkweed is a perennial plant with a well-developed root system so it regrows easily within a couple of weeks.


What is the time commitment?

Weekly but flexible. Beyond initial registration and training, there will be the duration of time it takes to trim your milkweed patch. This varies depending on your tools to do so but can be less than an hour. Then there is a weekly survey of your patch which depends on the number of stems in your milkweed patch – it can take anywhere from 2 minutes if you have just a few stems to 20 minutes or more. Make it a family affair!


When should I mow/trim my milkweed patch?

This depends on phenology (the age of the milkweed stem). We are asking that you cut your milkweed back when milkweed stems in your area are about to start flowering. In our area (Southern Michigan) this is around June 15. If you’re south of us it may be a week or two earlier, if you’re north of us it could be a week or two later. Timing does not have to be totally precise – we’d rather have you cut back the stems a little late and still participate than not participate at all!


Why are you focusing on Milkweed?

Monarch butterflies only lay eggs on milkweed, and this is the only plant caterpillars can eat. There are multiple types of milkweed monarchs use, but in this study we are focusing only on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) because it is most available in our region.


How do I correctly identify monarchs?

Monarchs are the quintessential North American butterfly and once you know how to correctly identify them, you’ll never forget! Check out this online resource and don’t hesitate to take and send us photos!


Do I need to attend a training in order to participate?

Attending a live webinar is not required, but you’ll want to view a recorded version of it to get oriented. The key is to follow the detailed instructions provided here.


How old do I have to be to participate?

There is no minimum age to participate. However, if you are under 18 you need adult supervision when cutting back the milkweed stems. Depending on the tool being used, an adult may need to operate it.


What if my milkweed patch is really big? Can I focus on just part of it so I don't have to check hundreds of stems every week?


YESSome folks have milkweed patches with several hundred stems. If you have a very large patch it is perfectly okay to mark off a subset of it to use in this study. You'll then treat this subset as your 'patch' to divide in half even though there are more stems outside of it.


Where can I access the newsletter?

 Use this link to access all of our published newsletters!