In May of 2018, the Village of Downers Grove began cultivating a pollinator garden in the open areas near the Belmont underpass. The project was funded in part by a grant from the ComEd Green Region program.
To get things started, the grass inside the turnarounds at Warren Avenue and Belmont Road was replaced with sustainable native plants to attract pollinators like bees, beetles, moths, and hummingbirds. Milkweed was also planted to target Monarch butterflies, building on efforts by surrounding suburbs to develop a “Monarch corridor” along the BNSF railroad.
Thanks to a Pollinator Meadow Mix provided by the Conservation Foundation, new native plants began to emerge in the Spring of 2019. New interpretive signs were added to tell the story of the garden’s soil, root systems, native plants and inhabitants. By late summer, Purple Cone Flowers, Black Eyed Susans, Narrow Leaved Milkweed and many others were in full bloom and the hummingbirds, bees and Monarchs made regular visits.
In September, volunteers from the Pierce Downer Heritage Alliance assisted Village staff in planting additional flowers to attract pollinators, including Butterfly Weed and Prairie Blazing Star. Special thanks to volunteers Mark Bragen and Irene Hogstrom for their assistance.
While the thought of playing a round of golf at Bolingbrook Golf Club may bring butterflies to your stomach, Bolingbrook’s meticulous greens and perfectly pinstriped fairways offer more than just the familiar feeling of excitement. Though numerous types of butterflies find a home on the course, Bolingbrook prides themselves over their extensive monarch butterfly population.
The monarch butterfly population has drastically reduced over the past twenty years-so much in fact that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering putting this important pollinator on the Endangered Species List. The Village of Bolingbrook and the Bolingbrook Golf Club have been working for many years in an effort to prevent this from happening. When the Village constructed the golf course in 2002, Mayor Claar and the Village Trustees put the environment at the forefront of the design plans. The course includes wetland plantings, numerous lakes, and over 100 acres of native prairie and grasslands, which are the perfect habitat for monarchs. Just like the Village offers numerous restaurants and dining experiences for its residences, the native prairie offers a smorgasbord for the monarchs to feast. The fescue areas are abundant with Wild Carrot, Goldenrod, Thistles, Joe Pye Weed, and various types of milkweed, just to name a few. The most preferred plant of them all is the Swamp milkweed, but monarchs do enjoy any variety of milkweed available.
There are several types of milkweed for the monarchs on the grounds at Bolingbrook. The club annually harvests milkweed seed from the native areas. It propagates those seeds and plants them in new locations on the course the following Spring. Along with starting new seeds in containers, the club also directly sows the seeds into new locations. This is done by aerifying the ground first then dropping the seeds into the aerified locations. Milkweed plants are the only plants that monarchs will lay their eggs on, which is why it is so critical for their success, and why Bolingbrook increases its milkweed population every year. Jeff Gerdes, Golf Course Superintendent, has utilized maintenance practices since the club opened in 2002 to ensure the monarchs are happy. The course uses organic fertilizers such as chicken manure, and recycles effluent water to irrigate the course. These are great sources of natural nutrients and allow for the reduction of manufactured fertilizer being used. Rather than using herbicides to control unwanted weeds, the native fescue areas are maintained with prescribed burns. These burns are done only after the first frost has occurred, rather than in early fall, giving monarch chrysalises on the milkweed as much time as possible to hatch. “We want to do all that we can to protect and promote the beauty Mother Nature and her resources provide to Bolingbrook. Bolingbrook Golf Club is proud of the efforts made, and the results from these practices ensure that our wildlife and natural habitats are cherished and not taken for granted” said Gerdes.
In addition to the 100 plus acres of native areas, the course has created several pollinator gardens throughout the grounds as well. These gardens have showy annuals and perennials preferred by monarchs, bees, and hummingbirds. The gardens provide a great food source through Coneflowers, Butterfly Bushes, Asters, and Columbines just to name a few of the colorful flowers.
Several residents of the community participate in the monarch efforts at the club as well. Cindy Hennessy and Peggie Mcmillan have donated numerous varieties of milkweed seed to the club and harvested other varities of seed from the course. Hennessy has also promoted monarchs by supplying butterfly kits to schools, libraries, and many other organizations as an educational tool to inform the public of the very fragile future for monarchs. In addition to their work at the Club, they have worked with Mayor Claar to create butterfly gardens throughout the Village of Bolingbrook.
The golf course works closely with several organizations as part of the monarch preservation process. The golf course is a registered Monarch station (#21889) with the Monarch Watch Shop organization. Bolingbrook Golf Club was also one of the initial clubs to join “Monarchs in the Rough” which is a program sponsored by Audubon International. Both of these organizations have specific criteria for monarch habitats that have to be met and maintained to stay in good standing. This year the club and community are working with the Chicago Field Museum and will participate in new initiatives created by the museum to further promote monarchs.
Bolingbrook is very excited with the success they have had and are expanding their efforts in the future. They are hopeful that others will learn of the importance of monarchs as pollinators in the ecosystem, and also take measures to save the monarchs. If you want to enjoy monarchs and the beautiful habitat they live in, all you have to do is visit Bolingbrook Golf Club.
Jeff Gerdes is available and can be reached at the golf course (630) 771-9400 if you have any questions, concerns, or would like to offer support to the monarchs.
Contributed by Julianna Gerdes, a senior at Plainfield North High School
DuPage Monarch Project and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County are hosting Pollinators in Action: Flowering Journeys, a month long art exhibit at Mayslake, Oak Brook in May of 2020.
It’s September and the bees are buzzing, butterflies are flying and plants are alive with pollinators. It’s a great time for observing, taking photos, sketching, making studies and harvesting ideas for art work. Enjoy this wonderful season; we’re looking forward to seeing your art as part of the upcoming celebration of pollinators.
I was privileged to attend the North American Monarch Institute (NAMI) three-day course designed for teachers and educators to learn how to lead their students, colleagues, and community in the science and conservation of monarchs. This course was provided through a partnership of Monarch Joint Venture, University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum and the US Forest Service – International Programs.
The USFS invited participants from Currier and Wegner Schools in West Chicago and one generalist recommended through the DuPage Monarch Project. There were sixty participants from all over the United States and Mexico.
On Wednesday and Friday, the classes were held at the University of Wisconsin – Madison Arboretum. The Thursday class was held at the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The first day focused on the biology, ecology and conservation of the Monarch. The second day focused on using the schoolyard for teaching. The third and final day focused on networking, planning and promoting gardens as learning laboratories.
This was an intensive and amazing three days! I was in the company of teachers, museum and nature center staff that included our counterparts from Mexico who help form and maintain this amazing multinational partnership. The instruction was provided by very knowledgeable and passionate NAMI staff, along with presentations on the current efforts to conserve the Monarch in Mexico. The Monarch uses all of North America for the migration and is loved by the people of three countries. The partnership between Canada, Mexico and the United States to strengthen and preserve the Monarch Flyway is vital not only to the conservation of the Monarch but also to other migrating species such as dragonflies, bats and birds. The conservation of all pollinators is strengthened every time citizens of each country plant and cultivate a native garden. So simple, yet many more of us are needed to do so to fully replace lost native milkweed. I want to emphasize native milkweed, but more on that in a future article.
Every student was sent home with a wealth of information, powerpoint presentations, handouts, lesson plans, posters, tools for teaching, hands-on learning activities for all ages and several books to read in our spare time! As the generalist, I hope to support the West Chicago teachers in future projects and to create opportunities to encourage and teach interested members of our community in becoming citizen-scientist participants.
Judith Allyn Horsleyhas 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.