Prairie is attractive to many wildlife species as a food source, and its complexity helps ensure their survival. Learn more about the intricate food web that makes the prairie work.
More than 300 different species of prairie plants are native to Iowa. These plants are a combination of both wind-pollinated grasses and insect-pollinated flowers, and are the basis of the prairie food chain.
Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants, and once hatched, the larva forage on the leaves for food.
Birds and rodents are a food source for snakes, skunks, badgers, red fox, coyote, northern harriers, and short-eared owls.
A great diversity of prairie plants create this food web and are necessary for its functionality; many insects rely on one specific species of plant for survival, called their “host plant,” as well as other nectar plants that they feed on.
Whitetail deer browse on this smorgasbord of prairie plants while the blooming of different species from April to October continually attracts insects. These insects create a stable food source throughout the entire season for the prairie chickens and songbirds that feed on them. Meanwhile, mice, voles, ground squirrels, and pocket gophers eat the seeds, leaves, and roots produced by the plants.