Project Wingspan Seed Collection for Monarchs and Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

The iconic monarch butterfly and its spectacular migration are in jeopardy.  Their North American numbers have suffered a steep decline of approximately 90% over the past two decades.  In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was petitioned to protect the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act.  Like the monarch, the rusty patched bumble bee (RPBB) was a common species 20 years ago, with a range across 28 states and two Canadian provinces.  RPBB populations have also seen a swift decline since the 1990's, which earned it placement on the endangered species list in 2017 - with a distinction of becoming the first bee in the contiguous 48 states to be declared endangered.  The species has now only been observed as a few small patches of populations across what is estimated to be only 0.1% of its historical range.

Project Wingspan (PW) is a two year project sponsored by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation to the non-profit Pollinator Partnership (P2) which is leading a coalition of partners in an effort to enhance land across the Midwest to support our imperiled pollinators.  The grant provides $149,000 to be matched by $385,000 of matching and in-kind contributions from the partners.

Project Wingspan is a short-term project designed to give a boost to the habitat needs of monarchs and Rusty Patched Bumble Bee and increase interest and skill in seed collection, as well as increasing habitat that will provide resources for in-state seed services.  To successfully achieve the 10,000 acres of monarch habitat goal, the following tasks will be performed:

Facilitate a regional seed collecting program for IL, IN, OH, PA, and WI to help meet increased immediate needs for regionally specific monarch and RPBB supporting planting.

Establish and enhance long term monarch and RPBB habitat.

Provide technical assistance to public and private land managers in the Midwest.

Listed below (by common name) are 29 native plant species which serve as a mixture of valuable forage and host plants for monarchs, RPBB and other pollinators. The list will be used to focus the seed collection efforts on a catalogue of specific target plants, which volunteer seed collectors will be trained to identify and from which they will collect seed.  

Native plant species list:  poke milkweed, swamp milkweed, common milkweed, butterfly milkweed, whorled milkweed, buttonbush, partridge pea, field thistle, tall coreopsis, eastern purple coneflower, common boneset, sweet joe pye weed, grass-leaved goldenrod, wild geranium, ox eye sunflower, tall blazing star, dense blazing star, wild bergamot, foxglove beardtongue, narrowleaf mountainmint, Virginia mountainmint, yellow coneflower, black eyed susan, smooth blue aster, New England aster, Ohio spiderwort, giant ironweed, Culver's root, golden alexander.

The following organizations throughout the Midwest have been confirmed and secured as satellite partners to help support the activities of the proposed project:  Tyson Foods, Inc., Chicago Botanic Garden,, Patoka River NWR, BIg Oaks Muscatatuck NWR Complex, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Energy Resource Center of University of Illinois at Chicago, Southwest Michigan land Conservancy, Pleasant hill Acres, Ohio Prairie Nursery, Ernst Conservation Seeds, Applied Ecological Services, and Ohio State University. Support for Project Wingspan has been provided in part by Commonwealth Edison as part of their commitment to environmental stewardship and conservation.  

For further information or to join the partnership creating Project Wingspan, please contact Amber Barnes, Elizzabeth Kaufman, and Michael Retterer with Polinator Partnerhship at, or

Seed collecting for Monarchs and the Endangered Rusty Patched Bumblebee online form:

Are you committed to enhancing your land for monarch butterflies, rusty patched bumble bees and other imperiled pollinators:  Visit this link to complete the survey today:
For questions, please e-mail Elizzabeth Kaufman at