YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Mahoning County residents are encouraged to harvest milkweed seed pods as part of a statewide effort to establish habitats for the rapidly declining monarch butterfly.

The Mahoning County Soil and Water Conservation District office and its offices across the state are collecting the pods now through Oct. 30. The pods can be stored in paper bags and brought to the SWCD office at 850 Industrial Road in Youngstown.

Since early September, milkweed seed pods have been maturing to the point where they can be harvested. Pods will appear slightly gray and will have dried out when ready to pick. The seeds inside should be brown before harvesting.

“Monarch butterflies are pollinators, which are critical to agriculture in Mahoning County and throughout Ohio,” said Kathleen Vrable-Bryan, district administrator at Mahoning SWCD. “This annual milkweed seed collection effort is a great opportunity to help reverse the decline in the monarch population by providing a food source and a resting and nesting place for them. I truly believe we’ve seen an increase in the monarch species since this program began.”

Here are some tips for picking and storing milkweed seed pods, as well as instructions for drop-off:

  • Pods must be dry, gray or brown in color to be picked.
  • Store the pods in paper bags; plastic bags collect unwanted moisture.
  • Put the date and county collected on the bag when you turn them in.
  • Keep the pods in a cool, dry area until you can deliver them to our office.
  • Pods can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the disappearance of milkweed — the only host plant for monarch caterpillars – across the United States has contributed to the 80% decline of the eastern monarch butterfly population over the last 20 years.

For more information on the local milkweed collection effort, call SWCD at 330-740-7995