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dupage monarch project: communities protecting pollinators

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April 2021

Fermilab Natural Areas Joins DuPage Monarch Project as an Associate Member

When we think of Fermilab—America’s particle physics and accelerator laboratory—we can’t help but focus on science and technology, on the study of the smallest particles and the most expansive forces in the universe.

But Fermilab’s 6,800-acre site in Batavia, Illinois also provides a variety of habitats for many of the more familiar treasures of nature, including butterflies and bees. The campus includes 1,000 acres of restored grasslands, to mention just one ecosystem. These habitats are under the care of ecologist Wally Levernier, and are supported by the Fermilab Natural Areas (FNA), a not-for-profit organization.

Levernier recently promoted and obtained clearance for the FNA to join the DuPage Monarch Project (DMP) as an associate member. The all-volunteer, donation- and grant-funded FNA network manages, restores and enhances the natural areas and resources of Fermilab in order to maintain and improve their ecological health and biodiversity.

Volunteers help to maintain the prairie by removing non-native invasive plants and collecting seeds in autumn.

Fermilab plays an important role in recovering rare species and in maintaining high levels of wildlife diversity. According to a fact sheet on their website, 54 species of butterflies have been observed on site. And the Fermilab prairies were the site for the reintroduction of the Baltimore checkerspot, a butterfly in decline. So it’s a natural fit for FNA to align with DMP’s mission of protecting monarchs, rusty patched bumblebees and the many pollinator species in decline.

FNA is one of 12 partners awarded the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Its volunteers help monitor and gather data on plants and wildlife, including pollinators, to measure the success of restoration and conservation efforts, and to use the data for research.

Education is an important aspect of their mission, and they typically provide summer and fall internships for college students studying biology or environmental science. Once the danger of COVID-19 passes, FNA plans to return to the internships as well as holding bird, butterfly and native bee hikes, volunteer workdays, and ecology events for teachers and students.

In the meantime, we welcome FNA to the DuPage Monarch Project, and we look forward to getting up close with Fermilab’s natural treasures that surround the study of the wonders of the universe.

Village of Westmont Kicks Off “No Mow Till Mother’s Day” Initiative

How often do you get a chance to accomplish something good by doing nothing? By taking it easy on lawn mowing for at least a few weeks in spring, we can help provide a favorable habitat for pollinators like bees and butterflies. 

The Village of Westmont has taken a formal step toward encouraging this behavior with its “No Mow Till Mother’s Day” program. The Environmental Improvement Commission (EIC) proposed, the Public Works Committee recently recommended, and the Village Board approved, a resolution to launch the program.

Westmont residents are invited to register online. Once enrolled, they will not be subject to lawn-mowing code enforcement through Mother’s Day, May 9. After that date, regular enforcement resumes.

People may even choose to designate a specific small section of their yard for the no-mow event. The village will provide and deliver yard signs to explain the reason for the taller grass and “weedy” species like white clover, violets and dandelions.

“Pollinators are essential to the success of our environment,” said Jon Yeater, who helped launch the program. Many species of pollinators live on lawns after they emerge from hibernation in the spring, he said. By not mowing during this critical time, pollinator habitat is left mostly undisturbed, which allows the flowers that pollinators rely on to grow at a time when resources might otherwise be scarce.

The first initiative of its kind in the DuPage area, the program was inspired by a similar one in Appleton, Wisconsin, which focused on giving bees a boost. Appleton’s 2020 “No Mow May” lawns found a fivefold increase in bee abundance and a threefold increase in bee diversity in June, compared to nearby parkland that was mowed regularly.

Pollinator- and butterfly-friendly lawn and garden practices help replace habitat lost to development, and provide a way for people and pollinators to happily thrive together. Timing lawn mowing for the benefit of early spring pollinators is an important step in promoting their recovery.

Who can argue with being lazy if not doing something will help the butterflies and bees?

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