dupage monarch project: communities protecting pollinators

Growing Milkweed

Good news – milkweed is no longer on the Illinois Noxious Weeds List!

When I started growing common milkweed five or so years ago it was still on the list and people were not nice when I offered them free milkweed seeds. True, it is a sticky mess and would not be good to ingest or get in your eyes. A few National Geographic specials on the vanishing Monarch made my quest to give away free common milkweed seed a little easier. I would say, “Would you like some free milkweed seed?” And the person would say, “No.” Then I would say, “Did you know that it is the only plant that the Monarch butterfly will lay eggs on and the only plant that the larva will eat?” Suddenly, I had takers all around.


I need to give credit to Pat Miller for getting me started. She provided me with the first seed to give away and the seeds that were first planted in our vegetable/flower garden.

The other reason I wanted to grow milkweed was so I could raise monarchs to release. I needed milkweed so I could find the eggs and newly hatched larva to raise in a controlled environment as only one in ten eggs makes it to a butterfly in nature. I also need plenty of clean, unsprayed milkweed for feeding. I take the leaf off the plant that has the egg or the larva and use a floral tube to keep the leaf from drying out too fast. This is where things can get sticky! I need to move quickly as the stem of the leaf will seal from the “milk” and the leaf will dry out before the larva emerges. And try not to let the leaf drip on your clothes.


I have learned over a few seasons that less is more when it comes to milkweed. I love the aroma of common milkweed blooms and I do let some plants go to seed so that I have more to give out the following year. However, I take out some older plants and let new ones emerge as monarchs like young tender leaves for their eggs. In addition, I don’t want the milkweed over crowded and I don’t want “wilt” on the milkweed leaves or on any of my tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.

Milkweed doesn’t always cooperate by growing where I want it to grow, but I do try to keep it as a tall background plant for other natives like coneflower. We ring our vegetable garden with natives and it works out very well with the birds preferring the natives to the fruits of the plants we eat!

Growing milkweed and raising monarchs is a labor of love, but well worth the effort.

Judith Allyn Horsley has been a certified Master Naturalist since 2012.  She began distributing milkweed seeds in 2013 and has distributed over 2500 packets of common milkweed seed. She is a member of West Chicago’s America in Bloom committee, has taught monarch conservation at park district summer camps and is active with the Environmental Stewardship Committee at her church.



Guardians Glendale Heights

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

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