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Capital News: Stop thinking about politics for a moment and start thinking about butterflies

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published: September 7, 2016 12:00 AM

Columbus -- It's all Trump this, Hillary that at the moment, with more than a little of your time being devoted to conversations about building some sort of barrier along the country's southern border with Mexico, right?

I don't think there was a day last week when somebody didn't ask or tell me something about that oft-mentioned wall and who's paying for it and on and on.

Are you tired of it all yet?

Let's forget about politics for a moment and turn our thoughts to something we all can agree on -- butterflies.

Everybody loves butterflies, right?

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They're so calming and fluttery, especially the majestic monarch, with it's lighter-than-air, orange-and-black wings, peacefully moving from flower to flower.

They're the reason state officials want your weed seeds. Seriously.

Monarchs are important pollinators, but they need milkweed to survive.

"Common milkweed is essential to the survival of monarch butterflies in Ohio," according to Marci Lininger, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Ohio is a priority area for monarchs. Fourth generation monarch butterflies hatch in Ohio in late summer, migrate north to Canada and then come back through Ohio once more in order to fly to Mexico for the winter. This same generation is also responsible for starting the life cycle all over again in the spring, laying the following year's first generation of monarchs."

As part of efforts to ensure a future for monarchs, the Ohio Department of Transportation recently asked Ohioans to collect milkweed seeds between now and the end of October.

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Those seeds can be donated to local soil and water conservation district offices, many of which house milkweed pod collection sites.

Collected seeds, in turn, will be distributed around the state to establish new stands of milkweed, thus ensuring the future survival of monarch butterflies.

ODOT's already planting milkweeds along roadways around the state.

"ODOT is one of the largest landholders in Ohio with more than 19,000 miles of right of way," Director Jerry Wray said in a released statement. "Planting milkweed and other native wildflowers on our roadsides benefit pollinators who in turn benefit agriculture. They also beautify our highways and reduce mowing costs -- a double bonus for Ohio taxpayers."

So break out some gloves and start searching for milkweed pods.

ODOT notes that "it is best to pick them when they are dry, gray or brown in color. If the center seam pops with gentle pressure, they can be picked. It is best to collect pods and store them in paper bags or paper grocery sacks. Avoid using plastic bags because they attract moisture. Store pods in a cool, dry area until you can deliver to the closest milkweed pod collection station. Harvesting pods from milkweed plants does not have any effect on the population of milkweed in established areas."

Isn't it nice to know there's an outlet for citizens wanting a break from this crazy campaign season, when all thoughts and waking moments could be spent focused on the coming presidential election?

Instead, get outside, collect some milkweed seeds, think about how you're making the world a better place.

And try to forget that monarchs annually cross our souther border with Mexico, unhindered by any sort of barrier.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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