Monarchs journeying north from Mexico will soon find DuPage County a more hospitable place to spend the summer thanks to Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley and Carol Stream Mayor Frank Saverino. The mayors have signed on to a nationwide monarch conservation initiative sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and pledged to make their communities more monarch friendly.
Over the past twenty years there has been an alarming decline in suitable breeding habitat for monarchs in the Midwestern cornbelt. According to Chip Taylor, a University of Kansas professor who has been studying monarchs since 1992, 173 million acres of monarch habitat has vanished, an amount equivalent to the state of Texas. As habitat dwindled, the monarch population declined, reaching a low in 2013 of only 10% of their historic average. Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed, as it is the only plant the caterpillars eat and it has been nearly eradicated from farm fields and roadsides where it was once abundant.
NWF’s pledge offers 24 suggested actions communities can take for improving and increasing the amount of habitat, from planting a demonstration garden to converting abandoned lots to monarch waystations.
Monarch conservation is a community wide effort in Elmhurst with the Garden Club, Public Library, Park District and Cool Cities Coalition joining the city in informing residents about the plight of monarchs and giving away milkweed and nectar plant seeds donated by the DuPage Monarch Project at their events. DuPage Monarch Project is a partnership of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage, Sierra Club’s River Prairie Group, The Conservation Foundation and Wild Ones Greater DuPage Chapter with a mission of supporting monarch conservation by advocating for municipal resolutions or pledges and encouraging residents, businesses, schools and churches to plant monarch gardens.
Gardens can replace lost habitat when nectar rich plants like black-eyed susans, zinnias, asters and coneflowers are planted, along with milkweed. In DuPage County, over 190 gardens have been certified by Monarch Watch as a waystation, which is a garden that provides everything a monarch needs to complete its life cycle.
With Mayors’ pledging to protect monarchs, more waystations will be coming soon and seeing monarchs will once again be one of our summer pleasures.
Photo credits: Adult monarch nectaring photo by Alison Bock; Jan Hanson’s monarch waystation in Bartlett photo by Jan Hanson