Milkweeds and Monarchs
The Forest Preserve District has long been committed to restoring habitats and conserving natural resources in DuPage County. So it’s a natural fit to extend our efforts toward a community-wide partnership to enhance native plant species that host the monarch butterfly.
We’re encouraging residents to plant milkweed in their yards to help sustain monarch butterflies. Seed packets are available at the District’s five education centers and Danada headquarters in time for the spring planting season. We’ll also distribute them at some community parades over the year.
Last fall our naturalists talked to third graders from Ben Franklin School about the dwindling monarch butterfly population as part of a new problem-based learning initiative implemented in Glen Ellyn School District 41. That prompted the students to approach Glen Ellyn officials about the issue, which led to a village-wide project to plant milkweed waystations and native gardens at select locations and resident landscapes. Learn more about Glen Ellyn’s community milkweed planting day on June 20.
Watch the kids' video about their milkweeds and monarch initiative.
We’ve also worked to educate about the importance of restoration and providing suitable habitat for monarch butterflies for many years. In 2010 our Willowbrook Wildlife Center added a large concentration of milkweed plants to its butterfly garden to create a monarch waystation. The site was designated an official waystation in 2012.
Illinois’ state insect — the monarch butterfly — has been in sharp decline for almost two decades in part due to the demise of milkweed, which is the only plant on which monarchs will lay their eggs. Monarch caterpillars also feed on milkweed for about two weeks until they are ready to form a chrysalis before emerging as a butterfly.
Milkweed plants, like butterfly weed, serve as a food source for the monarch caterpillar.
Willowbrook Wildlife Center planted a large concentration of native milkweeds in its butterfly garden. They included butterfly weed and common, swamp, whorled and Sullivant's milkweeds.
The native perennials and annual plants in Willowbrook's monarch waystation provide food, nectar and shelter not only for the monarch butterfly but for other migrant species.
Willowbrook Wildlife Center's Manager Sandy Fejt and Naturalist Kevin Luby and Ben Franklin students and teacher met members from the Glen Ellyn Environmental Committee to propose planting milkweeds throughout the community. The kids' visit to Willowbrook inspired their initiative to support the dwindling monarch population.