dupage monarch project

City of Warrenville Passes Monarch Resolution

“A monarch butterfly is not ‘just an insect’ to me” said Warrenville resident Therese Davis, “nor is it to anyone, if you stop and think about it. Monarch butterflies represent life in transition. An egg hatches, a caterpillar grows, a chrysalis is made, a butterfly emerges.  It is nothing short of pure magic!”

“I see the looks on my granddaughters’ faces and know they can see in a monarch butterfly wonderment and joy beyond words or comprehension,” she added. “Their beauty speaks to our hearts and touches our soul.”

Davis, you might say, is “all in” when it comes to monarch preservation. So she was incredibly delighted when on Oct. 3 the City Council of Warrenville pledged its support to the DuPage Monarch Project, vowing to create habitat for the tiny creatures and use its influence to educate residents on the importance of monarch friendly plantings and limiting pesticide use.


Therese Davis’ garden provides monarch habitat and was recognized in 2016  as having curb appeal by Warrenville in Bloom, a local beautification organization.

“The City of Warrenville is proud to help support the preservation of the monarch butterfly,” said Warrenville Mayor David Brummel.  “Our Environmental Advisory Commission is committed to spreading the word on the importance and benefit of planting native gardens that contain host plants for the monarch butterfly and other pollinators.”

In this resolution the City of Warrenville followed the Warrenville Park District which took the honor of being the first municipal entity anywhere in DuPage County to pledge its support to DuPage Monarch Project when its board passed a monarch resolution on March 17. To date, Warrenville is the only place in DuPage where both the city government and park district have pledged support to the monarch butterfly.

“Municipalities and park districts are in a position to play a critical role in protecting monarch butterflies,” said Lonnie Morris, DMP coordinator. “Loss of habitat is a major component of recent monarch population declines. The monarch population reached a low in 2013 of only 10 percent of its historic population. Land owned by park districts is often suitable for both natural habitat and recreation. Mayors and municipal leaders that sign resolutions make their communities monarch friendly through educational outreach, leading by example on pesticide usage and managing public lands for pollinators.”

The DMP is a partnership of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage, Sierra Club River Prairie Group, The Conservation Foundation and Wild Ones Greater DuPage Chapter formed in 2015. DuPage County, being on the fly route of the iconic butterfly’s 3,000-mile migration from Canada to Mexico is in a position to help. Monarchs need milkweed to survive, as it is the only plant the caterpillars eat. Milkweed has been all but eradicated from farmland and country roadsides due to pesticides. Nectar plants are essential as well as food for the long journey.

“Monarch’s were a delight of my childhood,” said Connie Schmidt, Warrenville resident and chair of the Sierra Club River Prairie Group. Schmidt initiated the signing of both resolutions by calling the first meetings with the park district and Warrenville Environmental Advisory Commission to discuss monarchs. She added, “As a child, I took monarchs for granted. I assumed they would always be there. I am proud that my town is so forward thinking doing its part to maintain the survival of this marvelous butterfly.”


Small Town Goes Big for Monarchs

The monarch message is taking hold in small towns and major cities all along their migration route; protect monarchs by planting milkweed, growing nectar plants and being careful, cautious and sparing with pesticides and mowing.

Taking action on this message became part of Monroe County’s yearlong bicentennial celebration when residents were encouraged to plant 200 monarch gardens for the 200 years of county governance. Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith provided strong support for the initiative by recruiting Alderman and Garden Club President Steve Notheisen to spearhead the effort. Waterloo, the Monroe County seat, is an Illinois city of 10,000 residents located thirty minutes southeast of St Louis. It sits squarely within the monarch’s migration corridor and summer breeding territory.

The City of Waterloo funded the purchase of milkweed seed from Monarch Watch that was distributed along with information on monarchs and milkweed. Notheisen handed out these packets throughout the year, beginning in April at a well attended community meeting, at a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce and a girl scout meeting. Packets were also made available to the public at Waterloo City Hall and the Monroe County Clerk’s Office.

Notheisen kept a supply of packets in his car and became so well known for his work on behalf of monarchs he received numerous requests for seeds when out and about town. He describes himself as a “Johnny Appleseed spreading ‘weed seed’ throughout the community.”

This year, all Waterloo Garden Club members planted milkweed in their butterfly gardens and the Club is planning a monarch waystation at the public library in 2017. The City of Waterloo is looking at converting a large lot adjacent to City Hall into a pollinator garden over the next couple of years.

Notheisen attributes the success of 200 Gardens for Monarchs to Mayor Smith’s enthusiastic support of the project. Local leadership and commitment to creating habitat in Monroe County has added several inviting havens and critically important stops along the monarch’s route between their winter and summer homes.

Please share with your mayor and ask him or her to take the Monarch Pledge.

National Monarch Habitat Restoration Grant Awarded to a DuPage Monarch Project Partner

The Conservation Foundation has been awarded a nearly $250,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to create and improve monarch butterfly habitat along the Fox River.

The Fox Valley Monarch Corridor Project, led by The Conservation Foundation, is a collaborative partnership between 12 public and private land organizations that include:

  • Barrington Area Conservation Trust
  • Campton Township
  • Conserve Lake County
  • Dundee Township
  • Fermilab Natural Areas
  • Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
  • Forest Preserve District of Kendall County
  • Forest Preserve District of Kane County
  • Fox Valley Park District
  • Land Conservancy of McHenry County
  • Oswegoland Park District

“We’re very happy to bring all these organizations together to do such important work,” said Dan Lobbes, The Conservation Foundation director of land preservation. “It takes all of us working together to make a significant, lasting difference for the monarchs and for us all.”


Matching contributions by the participating organizations, which extend across six counties, total nearly $600,000.

The Conservation Foundation is one of 22 nonprofit conservation organizations, government agencies, and other stakeholders to receive an award. A total of $3 million in grants was awarded by NFWS and ultimately will bring nearly $6 million more in matching contributions for the project.

The Fox Valley Monarch Corridor extends over 975 acres and will include the establishment and restoration of 10 multi-acre sites and hundreds of “stepping stone” sites on private land that will connect breeding and migration habitats of monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

In addition to the large natural areas targeted, the project will increase the presence of milkweed in neighborhood yards and local business campuses to help link the pollinators to the larger areas during their migration through the area. Milkweed is essential for monarch survival as their main food source and where they lay eggs.

An important part of the success of the project is engaging more residents in the Conservation @Home and Conservation@Work programs offered by The Conservation Foundation to conserve rain water and create native wildlife habitats that incorporate milkweed plants.

Work is expected to begin in early 2017, and must be completed within the two-year grant award period in 2019.

The grant is funded by the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund, and financially supported by Monsanto Company; U.S. Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Geological Survey; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Forest Service.

For more information on the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund, go to the National Fish and Wildlife Fund website at  

The Conservation Foundation, headquartered in Naperville, is one of the region’s oldest and largest not-for-profit land and watershed conservation organizations. Since it was founded in 1972, TCF has helped preserve nearly 33,000 acres of open space, restored and cleaned miles of rivers and streams, and educated thousands of kids by engaging them in nature and the outdoors.

Work is focused in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties to preserve and restore nature in your neighborhood. Find out more at

Waystations Awaiting Guest of Honor

Local monarch friendly gardens have been planted, pruned and prepared for the butterfly’s annual arrival but they’re slow to show up this year.

Waystation owners eagerly anticipate the arrival of the first monarch and often make note of the date or observe which blossoms the butterflies choose to feed on. Alison Bock, who has gardened for monarchs in Lombard for 12 years, observed they typically arrive in early June when the privet hedge is blooming. When she hadn’t seen a monarch as of July 1st, anxiety grew, fueled by reports of a devastating storm that hit the overwintering site in March, just as the butterflies were beginning their journey north. It was a great relief when a monarch showed up few days later. The late arrival could be due to weather conditions all along the migration route this past spring. The full impact of the storm on the monarch population won’t be known until they return to Mexico in the fall when the size of the roosting areas is measured.


Gardening for butterflies is deeply rooted in Bock’s family history. She learned about gardening from many hours spent in the garden with her grandmother.  As they both grew older, Alison did more and more of the bending and reaching, always under the patient and knowledgeable guidance of her grandmother.  “My Grandma told me,” Bock said in a halting voice, “when I die I’ll come back and visit you as a butterfly.”

Her garden is well prepared for butterflies with four varieties of milkweed and a profusion of nectar plants in highly visible shades of red, yellow and orange. She refers to one area as “caterpillar corner,” sheltered by a fence and intentionally left slightly messy to provide hiding places. Bock’s advice to beginner butterfly gardeners is to keep the birds well fed and the feeders at a good distance from where the caterpillars are. Monarch caterpillars have some protection from predators because of the toxic milkweed sap they ingest but they are still at risk.. Birds may sample a caterpillar one time, experience its toxicity and learn to avoid it. Bock wants her garden to give every caterpillar the best chance of survival.


Caterpillar corner was where Alison discovered the pay-off of monarch gardening. “I’ve seen butterflies and they’re cool, flying fairies,” she shared, “but the first time we saw a ‘cat’ on a milkweed plant we hollered, ‘We did it, it’s working!’”

Over 190 monarch waystations in DuPage have been registered with Monarch Watch, ranging in size from 100 to over 5,000 square feet and spread throughout the county at residences, businesses, schools, churches and parks. The first waystation was registered in 2005 at the Elmhurst home of Jane Foulser, a dedicated monarch conservationist and Elmhurst Garden Club member. Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley recently continued the community’s leadership role in the conservation effort by signing the National Wildlife Federation’s Monarch Pledge.

A waystation is a garden with the amenities monarchs need, nectar and milkweed plants free of insecticides, shelter from the wind, a shallow dish of water or a damp spot for puddling, sunny places with a boulder or rock for basking and an informal gardening style that provides caterpillars a place to hide.

Man made habitat is replacing the 173 million acres of habitat lost through conversion to cropland for the growing ethanol industry, acres of milkweed eradicated from farm fields that are now being maintained with herbicides and urban development. Bock commented as she proudly looked around her garden, “This is my little piece of the planet, I’m doing what I can to make it better. It’s my little eco-system for pollinators and butterflies.”


Carol Stream and Elmhurst Mayors Put Out a Welcome Mat for Monarchs

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

Take a Tour of DuPage Monarch Waystations

In honor of National Pollinators Week, June 20 – 26, DuPage Monarch Project invites you to visit some of the monarch waystations in DuPage County.

A waystation provides the things monarchs need for successful breeding, milkweed for egg laying and caterpillar food, nectar plants for adults, and water in a sunny location sheltered from the wind. Insecticides are rarely used in the maintenance of a waystation and invasive plants are removed periodically by hand.

The self-guided tour showcases the ways waystations fit into ornamental and naturalized landscaping. From cottage style gardens to parking lot perimeters and prairies, attractive habitat is being made available to the monarchs who summer in DuPage county.

Downers Grove

 Downers Grove Public Library     1050 Curtiss St

Common milkweed grows among day lilies in the ornamental beds with nectar plants, an innovative combination of monarch friendly milkweed and garden stalwarts.


Lyman Woods     901 31st St      Downers Grove

Lyman Woods offers 150 acres of diverse habitat to explore and enjoy. The most outstanding feature is a 19-acre oak woods that has remained undisturbed since it was purchased by the Lyman family in 1839. Today it serves as one of the few examples of the pre-settlement landscape that dominated the Downers Grove area.

The designated butterfly garden is to the east of the William F Sherman, Jr. Interpretative Center. Common milkweed is present and a grant has been received this year to fund 500 swamp milkweed plants for the small pond west of the Interpretive Center.

The William F Sherman, Jr Interpretative Center is a green building with many energy and water saving features.




Wilder Park Conservatory   225 S. Prospect   Elmhurst

The butterfly garden is found south of the greenhouse and offers one of the few waystations with tropical milkweed. The ornamental gardens on the grounds contain numerous nectar plants, both annuals and perennials.  Added interest for your visit is the Conservatory with its collection of tropical plants.


Great Western Prairie   North of the Prairie Path between Spring Road and Salt Creek  Elmhurst

You can ride your bike on the Illinois Prairie Path to this waystation. As a prairie there are few amenities on-site so take water and insect repellant though there are local businesses and restaurants nearby for a snack, meal or shopping.   Be aware of blackbirds if it’s the nesting season as they are territorial and will dive bomb to make you move on.

The nectar plants are traditional prairie plants. In late May, there was a combination of blue spiderwort and white foxglove beardtongue. There are large patches of common milkweed.

If you walk along the path on the north side of the prairie, you will encounter a “bee hotel” for non-colony forming native bees.

A visit to the Great Western Prairie provides an opportunity to distinguish between dogbane and milkweed, as both can be found growing there.  They have a similar appearance and both have a milky white, toxic sap.


Eldritch Park     363 W Commonweath Lane     Elmhurst

Eldritch Park provides an excellent example of how recreation and natural areas can co-exist in a municipal park setting. Naturalized areas with milkweed and nectar plants provide borders between soccer fields, a sledding hill and playground. There is even room for a bee hotel.



Glen Ellyn

Glen Ellyn Public Library     400 Duane St     Glen Ellyn

Waystation is located between the parking lot and Prairie Path

Drifts of white daisies offer early summer nectaring opportunities for returning monarchs. Common milkweed is scattered throughout the ornamental planting covering the hillside, spilling over into the path.


Glen Ellyn     Crescent Blvd between Main and Glenwood     Bordering Parking Lot

Identified by the Park District and Village’s “We Support Pollinators” sign, the native planting hosts common and swamp milkweed, blue false indigo, heuchera and many summer blooming prairie plants.


Willowbrook Wildlife Center     525 S Park Blvd     Glen Ellyn

A donation of $1.00 is requested for visitors. The Center is open to the public and offers educational displays, animals that are permanent residents and walking trails. This site highlights three distinct areas of monarch habitat, a cottage style garden with a variety of nectar plants, more formal landscaping around the animal rehab building with whorled, butterfly weed and Sullivant’s milkweed mixed with sedges and prairie grass and naturalized areas with common milkweed along the trails. This is one of the few waystations on the tour with whorled milkweed.



Oak Brook

Oak Brook Public Library     600 Oak Brook Road     Oak Brook

The monarch butterfly garden is on the south side of the building, around to the right of the front entrance. Designed by Art and Linda’s Wildflowers, the garden hosts swamp milkweed and butterfly weed, with common emerging in various landscaped areas around the library. Not typically listed as a nectar plant, the garden includes blue eyed grass which was blooming in May.



West Chicago

First United Methodist Church     643 E. Washington     West Chicago

Designed by Art and Linda’s Wildflowers, this garden located at the entrance to the church offers an attractive selection of native plants including a butterfly water feature, an important element of a successful waystation.

The garden functions as green infrastructure for storm water. Two downspouts are directed into an underground receptacle that when filled, water bubbles back to the surface, out and over a rock stream bed.



 Cantigny Park     1S151 Winfield Rd     Wheaton

Parking fee is $5 on weekdays, $10 on weekends during the summer. The park offers several kid friendly attractions, tanks from WWI and WWII, a military museum and splash fountain. The fountain rules specify no bathing suits, no towels, and no admittance to buildings with wet clothes. A restaurant and café are available for adding a snack or meal to your visit

Several gardens provide nectar plants and a prairie area supplies common milkweed as the larval host plant. Head for the Idea Garden where the Monarch Waystation sign is displayed and visit the adjacent prairie where dragonflies and butterflies can be seen feeding.

Illinois Institute of Technology   Rice Campus   201 East Loop Road    Wheaton

Prairie landscaping at IIT provides habitat while reducing maintenance costs, eliminating emissions from mowers, managing storm water and creating a quiet, bucolic setting. The areas surrounding the building are well maintained lawn with traditional landscaping. On the far side of the parking lots is a generous sized prairie growing milkweed and nectar plants. Blooms in early June were spiderwort and foxglove beard tongue with a diverse suite of plants in line for summer and fall flowering.

Become a Monarch, Bee, and Wildlife Champion by Reducing or Eliminating Pesticides in your Landscape

Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, or anything used to terminate or control what humans consider “pests”. Monarch butterflies, their caterpillars, bees and other wildlife are killed or harmed directly or indirectly when we use pesticides, especially insecticides, in our landscapes. Even though we may have an intended target, pesticides, especially when incorrectly applied,  harm many other wildlife which are ever-present,  are carried to other locations by drift or leached into our soils and waterways, and pesticide residue can remain active for days, even weeks. Wildlife are also harmed when they eat other wildlife poisoned by pesticides. 

Some Examples:

Certain mosquito adulticides can harm Monarchs and their caterpillars during application, and the residue on plants and soil from mosquito barriers can harm Monarchs for weeks after an application. Neonicotinoids or “neonics for short, is a class of systemic insecticides widely used to treat seeds,  nursery plants and cut flowers and are found in many garden products. Plant tissues absorb systemic insecticides and then Monarchs, bees and other insects eat the leaves, pollen, or nectar from a plant or seed treated with this insecticide. Rodenticides such as rat poison  baits also poison many birds, foxes, coyotes and other animals who eat rodents exposed to by this pesticide. Herbicides broadcasted onto our landscapes such as lawns, and especially on agricultural land eliminate many plants considered weeds by humans, but beneficial to wildlife, like milkweeds and common violets.

What can we do?

Pesticides are necessary in some cases, but in a typical landscape they are often overused or used incorrectly, causing harm to wildlife,  the environment, humans and pets. It is best to take alternative actions which are less harmful or more humane, tolerate some “pests” depending on the amount or type of damage, and to correctly identify which pests are actually harmful or beneficial before using any pesticides. Sometimes the risks of using a pesticide outweighs the damage caused. These steps are part of the  “Integrated Pest Management (IPM)” guidelines and helpful resources given below.

Some Resources:  

Learn more about the risks of pesticides on Monarchs and other wildlife:

Follow integrated pest management (IPM)maintain your landscape organically and plant a diversity of native plants to attract beneficial insects, even near or around vegetable gardens or farms. 

Know which seeds, plants and products contain  Neonicotinoids and avoid these completely. Encourage landscape companies and suppliers to avoid Neonics. If suppliers don’t know if their products are treated, do not buy.

After following IPM, if you must use a pesticide, follow all directions and read the guidelines below. Proper timing is often important since some pests are more easily controlled at certain life cycles/stages, when less pesticide is needed yet is more effective. If hiring a professional, make sure they have a required pesticide license. Please note that some organic or natural pesticides are harmful to wildlife so always do your homework.

Talk to your neighbors, cities, schools about pesticides. Never be brash, and have data ready to back up your statements. Change is slow but the results are worth it. Many cities, schools, neighborhoods have already successfully made the change to reduce or eliminate pesticides.


We all share this Earth and what we do in our landscapes impacts Monarchs, bees and other wildlife both locally and globally.  Using pesticides can greatly disrupt the delicate web of life and impact populations of species important to us in so many ways. Since 95 percent of our land is privately owned,  we all need to be a champion for Monarchs, bees and other wildlife.  

Denise Sandoval  Written for DuPage Monarch Project  and The Conservation Foundations Conservation@Home blog.



Monarchs are Part of the Program at Warrenville Park District

Warrenville Park District became the first municipal entity to pledge support to the DuPage Monarch Project when the board passed a Monarch Resolution on March 17th. DuPage Monarch Project, a partnership of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage, Sierra Club River Prairie Group, The Conservation Foundation and Wild Ones Greater DuPage Chapter was formed in 2015 to work locally on behalf of the imperiled monarch butterfly.

“Working with the Warrenville Park District is a natural fit for the DuPage Monarch Project,” said Connie Schmidt, Chair of Sierra Club’s River Prairie Group.  “It was rewarding to see Executive Director Diane Dillow’s enthusiasm when asked to sign on to this county-wide effort. They are even offering a class for residents on how to install and register their own monarch friendly habitats.”

Sustainability is woven throughout Warrenville Park District’s everyday operation, from energy efficient lighting in the gym to ongoing recycling collections and now it is being extended to visiting monarch butterflies.

Sustainability for monarchs means more milkweed, the plant where eggs are laid and caterpillars feed until they pupate, the transition phase for becoming a butterfly. Monarch caterpillars are specialists and eat only one food, milkweed leaves. Loss of milkweed has resulted in declining monarch populations and restoring the population to a safe level requires replacing the milkweed lost to development and agricultural practices.

The Park District will be inventorying parks and open lands to identify existing monarch habitat and locate areas where new habitat can be established. The Park District also plans on creating a monarch waystation, which meets the criteria established by Monarch Watch, a nationally recognized organization dedicated to monarch recovery.

Warrenville residents are encouraged to participate in the recovery effort by learning more about what monarchs need and planting and certifying waystation gardens at their homes.

Monarch Migration Map

Monarch Butterfly Migration Map

You can help us understand Monarch’s conservation needs by reporting your observations. (Click on the map)

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