The Town of Huntsville is asking residents to mark milkweed in ditches with a yellow ribbon, as it starts its yearly roadside mowing.

Milkweed is a plant with a special relationship with monarch butterflies. The butterflies lay their eggs on the plant, and feed on its bitter and poisonous sap. The sap deters predators from eating the butterflies. In return, the butterflies pollinate the plant. According to Huntsville Manager of Operations Kevin Boucock, Huntsville residents have been keen on keeping both the milkweed and the monarchs around.

“We’ve, over the years, gotten numerous requests to try and avoid the milkweed for the monarch butterflies as they come into town and lay their eggs,” says Boucock. “We’ve asked people to put a yellow ribbon around any areas of concern where there might be some milkweed. We’ll do our best to go around that area whenever possible.”

For residents who don’t have ribbons lying around, Boucock says that anything yellow will do the job, such as tape or strips of cloth.

Huntsville mows its roadsides once a year, typically in the middle of the summer. In addition to prettying up the town, Boucock says the mowing plays an important role in making the roads safer.

“It’s for the sightlines off the sides of the roads, keeping the brush back and weeds down, so people are able to see coming out of their driveways and in intersections,” says Boucock. “Usually July the crews will be heading out with the machines to get this work done.”

Boucock says he expects the work to take about a month to complete, with possible weather-related delays.