dupage monarch project

West Chicago to Celebrate the Monarch Butterfly through Art, Film, and History

Yearlong Schedule of events and activities to bring awareness, education and beauty to the community and beyond.

Frigid temperatures notwithstanding, West Chicago is embracing 2019 with sights set on celebrating the beauty and wonder of a small winged creature which will shortly be waking from its months-long hibernation in warmer climates and begin its journey to the western suburbs.

The Monarch butterfly’s wondrous migration and subsequent transformation has become something of a metaphor for the diverse community of West Chicago itself, which will be celebrating The Year of the Butterfly through an exciting calendar of programs and events.


Thanks to the support of the West Chicago Cultural Arts Commission, the West Chicago America in Bloom committee, and the many community partners including the West Chicago Garden Club, People Made Visible, the Green Disciples of the First United Methodist Church of West Chicago, Community High School District 94, the DuPage Monarch Project, Community School District 33, residents and Master Naturalists Michael and Judith Horsley, and many others, the City will provide education, art and greater awareness for Monarch conservation.

The cross-pollination of these group efforts will yield the following for the enjoyment of everyone in the community:

  • A free public screening of The Guardians, a Spanish-language documentary film with English subtitles, will be available to the public on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. at Gallery 200, 103 West Washington Street as part of Artéculture. The film is a visually dazzling meditation on the balance between humans and nature. The Guardians poetically interweaves the lives of the threatened Monarch butterfly with an indigenous community fighting to restore the forest they nearly destroyed. Shot over three years, this cinematic journey through the butterfly dense mountaintops of Michoacan Mexico, tells the intimate story of a unique community at the front lines of conservation. Additional showings at Gallery 200 of The Guardians may be arranged for interested groups over the course of the year. Also, the film will be made available to students and faculty of Community High School District 94, as they explore the subject in related Science classes, as well as at an evening showing for the general public on a date and time to be announced.


  • Blooming Fest, scheduled on Saturday, May 18, 2019 in downtown West Chicago from
    9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
    , will feature several opportunities to learn more about the Monarch from various environmental groups which will have booth spaces. Also, a special craft for children to create their own paper butterfly will be available at the City table on Main Street, and people of all ages will delight in becoming the center of larger-than-life butterfly wings. The photo opportunities of these interactive activities will provide great memories of The Year of the Butterfly.
  • The opening of a citywide public art project that celebrates the Monarch, also takes place in May. Its chosen title, The Butterfly Effect, is a reference to chaos theory and the phenomenon which occurs when a minute localized change in a complex system has large effects elsewhere. The concept holds a special significance for the Cultural Arts Commission, which sees a strong symbolic connection between Monarch migration and the migration of the diverse immigrant populations for adding beauty, value and history to the community. Through a collaborative effort between the West Chicago Cultural Arts Commission, the West Chicago Garden Club, People Made Visible and the West Chicago America in Bloom Committee, 29 artfully designed wooden butterflies will be installed in public gardens throughout the City, with an additional seven at the Kruse House Gardens. The butterflies, approximately three-feet high by four-feet wide will be designed by local artists and members of the Garden Club. An interactive map will be designed for use in locating each installation, making it easy for residents and visitors to spend a delightful afternoon visiting each site through the month of September.
  • Community arts not-for-profit People Made Visible will be coordinating a residential component of The Butterfly Effect for those wishing to create their own artful butterfly for use in the home garden. Smaller templates, available at a reasonable cost, will be available for purchase at Gallery 200, 103 West Washington Street during normal hours of operation, Thursdays from noon – 6:00 p.m.; Fridays from noon – 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; and Sundays from noon – 4:00 p.m.
  • A new exhibit titled Home, which is scheduled to debut at the City Museum, 132 Main Street, on Saturday, May 18, 2019 and run through Saturday, April 18, 2020, will focus on an exploration of community, specifically as told through histories of people who currently call, or who have at one time called, West Chicago home. Additionally, select artifacts from the Museum’s collections will be incorporated in the exhibit. Chosen artists will work with Museum Director Sara Phalen and exhibit co-curator Anni Holm to create compelling original artwork that will be inspired by the stories of individuals’ journeys to and in the community. Like the indelible imprint of the Monarch population to the West Chicago environmental landscape, the unique stories of people who made a home in West Chicago will illustrate the profound ways in which they have contributed to the cultural landscape.

For more information about any of West Chicago’s The Year of the Butterfly events, programs, or activities, please contact Rosemary Mackey at, or (630) 293-2200 x139.


The Guardians: A Monarch Documentary

Join DuPage Monarch Project, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, River Prairie Group of the Sierra Club, The Conservation Foundation, Wild Ones Greater DuPage Chapter and Warrenville Park District for a showing of The Guardians on February 20th, 7:00 pm at the Clifford Johnson School 2S700 Continental Drive, Warrenville.

A visually dazzling meditation on the balance between human and nature, The Guardians poetically interweaves the lives of the threatened monarch butterfly with an indigenous community fighting to restore the forest they nearly destroyed. Migrating 3,000 miles to hibernate in towering Oyamels, the monarch population faces collapse. When the directors started filming The Guardians in 2014, the monarch population hit an all-time record low of 33 million, down from 1 billion just twenty years prior. In the valley below, the people of Donaciano Ojeda struggle to support their families in their ancestral lands now part of the protected Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Santos, a charismatic avocado farmer and Aristeo, a philosophical tree caretaker are the storytellers of the community as they confront internal divisions, illegal loggers and their own mortality. Shot over three years, this cinematic journey through the butterfly dense mountaintops of Michoacan tells an intimate story of a unique community at the front lines of conservation.

the guardians_poster warrenville

What has DuPage Monarch Project Been up to This Year?

AnnualReportCoverAnnualReportPage1Read the full report

Captive Rearing

Making DuPage Monarch Friendly

Monarch migration this fall echoed ones of the past with hundreds of butterflies gathered in spectacular roosts and thousands flying over head, peppering the sky with black and orange. The abundance is encouraging and an indication that with favorable weather and sufficient habitat, the monarch population can bounce back.

Photo by Therese Davis

On October 17th, DuPage Monarch Project is hosting Creating Healthy Landscape: Planting for Pollinators, which will offer presentations and case studies on designing attractive, sustainable landscaping that also functions as monarch and pollinator habitat. DuPage Monarch Project’s goal is to ensure enough habitat is available to sustain a healthy local breeding population of monarchs and fuel migrants as they pass through the county on their annual journeys.

All landscaping from backyard gardens to corporate campuses has the potential to be habitat when the right plants are included. “It doesn’t change the cost of plant materials if you buy daylilies or coneflowers, but coneflowers provide additional benefits for native insects and birds,” said Jim Kleinwachter, The Conservation Foundation’s representative to DuPage Monarch Project.

Several local natural areas management companies will be available at the half-day symposium for answering questions and concerns about establishing new habitat or refreshing an existing one. This is an opportunity for networking with people who are transforming the way we think about gardens and demonstrating how backyards, school yards, church yards, parkways and parks can be part of the solution to declining pollinators and monarchs.

Attendees will take home new understandings about milkweed, is it just for monarchs and who’s the best pollinator, butterflies or bees.

Creating Healthy Landscapes: Planting for Pollinators

October 17, 8:00 am – 12:30 pm – check in opens at 7:30 am

Danada House   3S501 Naperville Rd   Wheaton

Free and open to the public   Registration requested

Creating Healthy Landscapes: Planting for Pollinators

Creating Healthy Landscapes:
Planting for Pollinators

Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018
8 a.m. – Noon

Danada House at Danada Forest Preserve in Wheaton

Learn how to install and maintain natural landscapes to support declining species of pollinators. Our symposium features keynote speaker, author and naturalist Cindy Crosby and other industry experts.

The Danada House (PDF) is on the east side of Naperville Road 1 mile south of Butterfield Road (Route 56) and 0.75 mile north of I-88.

Complete the required form to register for the symposium.

* Attendance at the symposium qualifies for three professional-development hours; please request a certificate for completion.

About Our Keynote Speaker Cindy Crosby


Cindy Crosby is the author of “The Tallgrass Prairie: An Introduction” by Northwestern University Press. She has also written and contributed to more than 20 books. She also writes weekly for her “Tuesdays in the Tallgrass” blog.

Crosby is a steward supervisor for the Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum and a steward at Nachusa Grasslands. She teaches and speaks about the tallgrass prairie.

She enjoys hiking the prairie, gardening, kayaking and searching for dragonflies.

About the Speakers


Andy Stahr
Andy Stahr blends design with a practical understanding of native plants and the systems in which they evolved, bridging science and design in restoration.


Ron Nosek
Ron Nosek is a retired criminal trial attorney who teaches wilderness skills for nonprofit Nature Education Programs, Ltd.

Andrés Ortega

Andrés Ortega is an invertebrate ecologist with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County and works to protect and restore insect populations, including the Hine’s emerald dragonfly and monarch and Baltimore checkerspot butterfies.

Chris Pekarek

Chris Pekarek is the golf course superintendent for The Village Links of Glen Ellyn, where he has worked for 48 years.

About DuPage Monarch Project


The DuPage Monarch Project is a group of local organizations working together to provide education about monarchs and increase the amount of suitable monarch habitat throughout DuPage County. DuPage Monarch Project is asking mayors and village boards to formally resolve to make their communities more monarch friendly.

Project Partners

forest-preserve-district-logo sierra-club-logo
conservation-foundation-logo wild-ones-logo


DuPage County Fairgrounds is Home to Butterflies

You might head out to the DuPage County Fairgrounds to see prize winning cows, pigs or sheep but now, you can also see spectacular butterflies.

Take a video tour:

Golf Course Suits Monarchs to a Tee

While golf carts silently roll across manicured fairways, monarchs are flitting over tall tufts of vegetation in the rough. It’s just another summer day for golfers and the resident wildlife of Village Links.

 The Village Links of Glen Ellyn, a municipal golf course, was established in 1967 with an environmental purpose. It was designed to manage the storm water causing flooding south of Roosevelt Rd. Managing storm water with green infrastructure was an inspired solution that created a recreational asset and a low cost public works project. According to Chris Pekarek, Golf Course Superintendent, the golf course is financially self-sustaining and is not supported with tax revenue.

The course took on a new look in the early 1990’s through its participation in Audubon International’s innovative Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf (ACSPG). Land use patterns had been rapidly changing with an alarming loss of habitat for birds and wildlife. The search was on for finding compatible ways and places for wildlife and people to co-exist. The ACSPG program offered technical and financial support for reducing the environmental impact of golf courses through improved water quality, reduced reliance on municipal water sources, decreased chemical usage and the addition of natural plantings in out of play areas.

Village Links enthusiastically embraced the concept and in 1993 was the first ACSPG public course to be certified. Forty unmowed acres now encircle ponds, carpet hillsides and add interest along the fairways. For years, 200 native shrubs and trees such as red, white and swamp white oak were planted annually, reaching a stable population of 4,000 trees.

Managing some areas as habitat quickly produced results. The morning after six bluebird houses were installed, Pekarek observed a male bluebird perched atop a house whistling for a mate.

In 2018, Audubon partnered with Environmental Defense on a new program, Monarchs in the Rough, designed for golf course to meet the specific needs of monarch butterflies. Audubon International estimates there are at least 100,000 acres on golf courses that have the potential to become suitable habitat for butterflies and bees if appropriately managed. Village Links currently exceeds the targeted goals of the program with an estimated one million stems of milkweed.


During a July tour of Village Links, monarchs were observed bubbling up over dense stands of common milkweed and gliding through pink swamp milkweed flowers. Lavish drifts of tropical milkweed near the clubhouse welcome golfers and monarchs looking for a place to lay eggs.


“We have a monoculture of grass on the course,” said Pekarek. “We strive for diversity in the habitat areas.”

Pekarek’s vision of an eco-friendly golf course led to the addition of a “farm to table” operation in 2013. A poly hoop house grows heirloom tomatoes, mint, kale, strawberries, cutting flowers for the restaurant and hot peppers. Eleven hives provide honey for the restaurant and bar.

Available land is necessary for establishing wildlife habitat but Pekarek identifies a committed land manager as an essential ingredient for a successful project. His tenure of nearly 50 years with Village Links provided the time to visualize the land’s potential and the opportunity to make thriving, vibrant habitat a reality. It’s a model of human and wildlife coexistence that inspires the search for more.

There is a place for every milkweed, and a milkweed for every place.

Jim Price

Wauwatosa, WI

Posted on the Monarch Watch list serve July 19, 2018

I fervently hope that people will not get hung up on studies of ovipositing preference and larval survival on different milkweed species – and not because I don’t believe the studies, but because I think many laypeople tend to draw misguided conclusions from them. These studies advance our knowledge base but do not necessarily need to guide us in making choices.

Our migratory monarchs, east and west, evolved with some 73 species of milkweed in their breeding ranges. Monarchs will lay eggs on most if not all of them, and at least some of their larvae will develop on most if not all of them. I have raised more than 20 species and have yet to find one that doesn’t fit the bill. Some larvae die on every species. Evolution being what it is, more-toxic milkweeds must have their place, and milkweed mortality may simply be the price that monarchs have paid to Charles Darwin for having adopted a toxic genus of plants as their host.

It is good-hearted and well-intentioned, perhaps, to say,  “But I don’t want to plant Sullivant’s milkweed because two-thirds of all the caterpillars that hatch will die before they reach adulthood.” But that overlooks the many advantages that this species provides, and it is a purely human emotional reaction to an incredibly complex set of relationships that occur in the wild.

If we were to adopt the “some milkweeds are better than others” approach (which I wholly reject), weighing preference, larval survival and development, and adult fitness, choosing only those species that score “good” or better, we in the East would be planting only common (A. syriaca) and swamp (A. incarnata). We’d have to abandon everyone’s favorite, butterfly weed (A. tuberosa), because it is the least preferred species, even though it has the highest survival (75%, per Pocius). We might leave out poke milkweed (A. exaltata) because it is only moderately preferred, even though it is tops in larval development and fills a niche (shade) that most other milkweeds cannot. We’d ignore whorled milkweed (A. verticillata) because it is so little preferred, even though it provides late-season blooms and tender growth when most other milkweeds have begun to senesce (in the drought of 2012, whorled milkweed was highly preferred by season’s end when common milkweed had turned bone-dry)

As for Sullivant’s, or prairie, milkweed (A. sullivantii), it is highly preferred but scores low on survival (36%, per Pocius). Beyond that, it is incredibly long-lived once well-established in an appropriate habitat; blooms much longer than any other milkweed; continues to produce new, tender growth much longer than most other milkweeds; produces copious nectar that is highly preferred (in my observation) by both monarchs and a host of other pollinator insects; and is remarkably drought-tolerant (again, in 2012, it was still blooming and producing new foliage until season’s end when all other milkweeds except whorled had scenesed. About 90% of all eggs laid in my Waystation that year were on sullivantii, despite there being at least 13 other species to choose from.).

The mathematics of monarchs and milkweeds is an equation of shocking mortality. Tori Pocius’ survival studies were necessarily done on milkweeds growing in the absence of any predators, parasites and pathogens. Put those back into the equation, in the wild, and we find that regardless of milkweed species, 88% to 98% of all monarch larvae will die one way or another before they reach the fourth instar. On average, over time, more than 99% of larvae, pupae and adults will die somehow before they can reproduce, and that would be true even if the population were in equilibrium.

So, if only one in four larvae laid on A. tuberosa will succumb on their diet alone, while two of three laid on A. sullivantii will perish, but monarchs will lay, say, 100 eggs on sullivantii for every one laid on tuberosa, which species will produce more monarchs? Add the fact that sullivantii will spread vegetatively into a large clone of many stems over time, while tuberosa will have to rely on self-sowing alone. Which is better? Well, neither. Both are good, just for different reasons.

Some might still argue that syriaca and incarnata are the better choices because they are preferred, have good survival and good development, hence all the advantages we want over both sullivantii and tuberosa (in this example). And perhaps in the short term, we should use a lot of syriaca and incarnata to achieve the most rapid recovery of the monarch population to sustainable levels. But long-term, and starting now, we need all of our milkweeds, because…

Incarnata cannot fit all the niches of land-use that we need to recover. It is the only species we can use to repopulate very wet places, but it will not persist in any place that is not predominately wet throughout most of the season. Since most of the land-use areas we are talking about restoring are not predominately wet, it cannot be our sole or main reliance.

Syriaca is our least conservative species and is very good food for monarchs. It seems to grow almost everywhere, but in fact it has its own niche, if you will. It is a pioneer species that is highly reliant on disturbance for natural colonization. It is not terribly persistent nor likely to reintroduce itself in habitat that remains undisturbed for long. If our goal is to restore large areas to tall-grass prairie to the benefit of the monarch, common milkweed will only get us started. If you visit any long-established prairie restoration, you will find little or no common milkweed beyond the borders and trail edges where disturbance continues to occur. You will find very little if any in the interior of the mature prairie. And our naturalists will want to do this – restore prairie “the right way,” meaning undisturbed once established, “pure prairie in perpetuity.” Common milkweed can be planted there, or it will arrive on its own, when the restoration is first underway. But it will evaporate over time.

What species will establish and then persist in a mature tall-grass prairie restoration intended to be perpetually maintained only by occasional mowing or fire? Sullivantii and tuberosa.

The fact that common milkweed accounts for 90% of all the milkweed feedstock available to monarchs is a matter entirely of our own doing. Common milkweed cannot once have been so vey common. It is an opportunistic species that would have occupied the margins and boundaries where disturbance occurred (wind-thrown trees, flash-flood scars, heavily browsed thickets, etc.) and would have invaded prairie only with the help of soil exposed by buffalo wallows, badger dens, gopher mounds and the like. For all we know, common milkweed may have evolved with the relatively much greater disturbances caused by the Pleistocene megafauna ripping and tearing at the turf. It may have waxed and waned and waxed again with the introduction of Native American agriculture. But its current super-prevalence is entirely a product of our vast disturbance of the natural environment and destruction of habitat for all other milkweed species. We have forced the monarch to subsist, for all practical purposes, on a single plant. We have made it single-host specific, whereas it is naturally genus-specific to dozens of species. Monoculture is seldom a good thing. Our long-term goal should not be to perpetuate monoculture in different places but to promote diversity in every place.

Final points:

  • All milkweeds are good, but for different reasons. No one milkweed is inherently better than any other except insofar as it is better adapted to a particular place.
  • We should value, protect and preserve, and restore all milkweeds for their own sake regardless of our biases toward other valued species, including the monarch. Milkweeds are highly beneficial in many ways and beautiful to behold. They are as much a part of our native legacy and responsibility as de facto stewards of all living things as are any other living things. This is our chance not only to recover the monarch butterfly but also to right the wrong we have done the Asclepias tribe. (In Wisconsin, of our 13 native milkweeds, one (sullivantii) is threatened and four are endangered, one of those (A. meadii) having already been extirpated once and only recently reintroduced on a small scale.)
  • All milkweeds are excellent and highly preferred nectar plants serving hosts of beneficial insects, but they have different bloom periods. Some are early and short, some are late and long. Some have flower sizes and forms that serve different insects (whorled milkweed serves many insects that cannot access larger flowers of other milkweeds, or that appear only later when others are done blooming). We shut out many other species if we shut out any one species.
  • We should plant as much milkweed as possible of as many varieties as possible where each species will thrive, as it is appropriate to the ecology of the site – not because of our human biases against any milkweed or in favor of any other species, even monarchs. Plant all milkweeds where our knowledge tells us they should grow, maintain those sites using best practices, and let nature re-take its course.

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