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A makeover for milkweed, for the sake of butterflies

Farmers in Quebec and Vermont plant milkweed to help sinking butterfly population, but also to profit from milkweed fibre

July 31, 2018  by Calvin Woodward, The Associated Press

Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS/Flickr

QUEBEC – For generations, farmers have despised milkweed and done their best to rid their lands of it. Now some farmers in Quebec and Vermont are planting it.

They’re looking to help the sinking population of monarch butterflies and to serve a new market for the milkweed fiber. Monarchs will only lay their eggs on milkweed and the plant is the only food for the caterpillars. Quebec researchers have turned the silky floss from milkweed pods into insulation for pricey winter clothing.

It’s tough to process, making the market uncertain even as farmers approach what could be their best milkweed harvest since the experiment began five or so years ago.

Lac-du-Cerf, Quebec, farmer Nathalie Leonard says the milkweed pioneers could fail but it’s worth trying, for the sake of the butterflies.

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