Oct 6, 2023 - News

TDOT pauses monarch butterfly program due to "overwhelming demand"

Monarch butterfly perched on a milkweed plant flower in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on July 08, 2022.

A monarch butterfly perched on a milkweed plant. Photo: Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Tennessee Department of Transportation says its program to improve habitats and food sources for vulnerable monarch butterflies by distributing milkweed seeds has faced "overwhelming demand" since it launched in June.

Why it matters: TDOT has run out of its stock of milkweed seeds and will pause the Project Milkweed program until June 2024.

By the numbers: The agency received nearly 131,000 orders for free milkweed, which the monarchs use for food and shelter.

  • TDOT had already distributed its entire stock of 300,000 milkweed seed packets by Sept. 30.

What they're saying: "TDOT is happy to offer such a popular program to the public, and to empower Tennesseans to do their part in saving pollinators as they are vital to life, growing food, and the economy of Tennessee," TDOT commissioner Butch Eley said in a statement.

Driving the news: Pollinators like the monarchs contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy by pollinating food crops. But the state estimates that monarchs and milkweed habitats have declined by about 90% since 1992.


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