Pollinator Conservation | Desert Botanical Garden


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Insects rely on plants for survival. Desert Botanical Garden seeks to understand how native plants support local butterfly populations. To increase impact, the Garden combines research with native propagation and outreach efforts, under the umbrella of Great Milkweed Grow Out.


Celebrating 85 Years of the Garden:Secret Pollinators of the Sonoran Desert

As the Garden embarks on a yearlong celebration of its 85th anniversary, read about at some of the Sonoran Desert’s inconspicuous pollinators that help keep our wonderful biome vibrant and colorful.

Pollinator Plant Propagation

Garden research is highlighting the importance of native plants for conservation of ecosystems and many types of animals, including pollinators. However, there is a lack of native plant material available for building habitat–from small backyard projects to large...

Milkweed Ecology

Milkweeds support more than just monarchs. They offer value to a variety of landscapes by providing nectar for pollinators and attracting predatory insects that are excellent for pesticide-free pest control. Great Milkweed Grow Out is currently working on a project...

Assessing Suitability of Native Milkweeds

Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are the sole hostplant for monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). Monarch caterpillars must consume milkweeds to survive. As monarchs are facing drastic declines, largely tied to loss of plant habitat, the Garden's pollinator conservation...

Meet the Team

Natalie Melkonoff
Kim Pegram, Ph.D.

Program Director, Pollinator Conservation and Research

I manage pollinator and butterfly conservation initiatives and research at the Garden. The Garden’s primary pollinator initiative, Great Milkweed Grow Out, helps conserve monarch butterflies and other pollinators in Arizona by propagating and distributing thousands of native milkweeds, outreach into the community and researching how insects interact with milkweed. My current research seeks to determine 1) which native milkweeds are best for monarch conservation, 2) how milkweeds support other beneficial insects and 3) butterfly-hostplant ecology in other species. My PhD research focused on warning coloration, understanding how iridescent blue can function to warn predators, with pipevine swallowtail butterflies as a model.


Pegram, K.V., Melkonoff, N.A. 2019. Assessing preference and survival of Danaus plexippus on two western species of Asclepias. Journal of Insect Conservation. 1-9.

Pegram, K.V., Rutowski, R.L. 2016. Effects of directionality, signal intensity, and short-wavelength components on iridescent warning signal efficacy. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 70, 1331.

Pegram, K.V., Han, H.A., Rutowski, R.L. 2015. Warning signal efficacy: assessing the effects of color, iridescence and time of day in the field. 121, 1-13.

Pegram, K.V., Rutowski, R.L. 2014. Relative effectiveness of blue and orange warning colours in contexts of innate avoidance, learning and generalisation. Animal Behaviour. 92, 1-8.

Pegram, K.V., Nahm, A.C., Rutowski, R.L. 2013. Warning color changes in response to food deprivation in the pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor). Journal of Insect Science. 13, 110

Rajyaguru, P.K., Pegram, K.V., Kingston, A.C.N., Rutowski, R.L. 2013. Male wing color properties predict material benefits received during mating in the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor). 100, 507-513.

Pegram, K.V., Lillo, M.J., Rutowski, R.L. 2013. Iridescent blue and orange elements contribute to the recognition of a multicomponent warning signal. 150, 321-336.

Pegram, K.V., Han, H.A., Rutowski, R.L. 2012. Overnight perching aggregations of the aposematic Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor; Lepidoptera: Papilionidae): implications for predation risk and warning signal use. Journal of Research on Lepidoptera. 45, 9-16.


Ph.D. Arizona State University, 2015

Natalie Melkonoff
Natalie Melkonoff

PhD. Biology, Arizona State University/Desert Botanical Garden (In progress)

Melkonoff’s work is focused on the interactions between plants and animals and how the physiological processes of both impact their interdependence on one another and their ability to thrive under different environmental stressors. She is currently working on her Ph.D. with a focus on the interactions between milkweed, monarch butterflies and pollinators in the Sonoran Desert. She also coordinates Desert Botanical Garden’s monarch and pollinator conservation initiative, Great Milkweed Grow Out.


Ph.D. University of Arizona/Desert Botanical Garden (In progress)

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