dupage monarch project

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)

Carol Stream Site Supports Dupage Monarch Project’s Mission

Carol Stream has joined the growing ranks of villages, park districts and volunteer groups working to protect the eastern monarch.

The Village of Carol Stream, with the support and encouragement of Bill Bedrosian of Bedrock Earthscapes LLC , went looking for monarch habitat and found it in an existing natural area at the corner of Lies Rd and Gary Avenue. The area has been certified by Monarch Watch as providing what monarchs require, milkweed for caterpillars, nectar plants for adults, sheltered and sunny places in a location large enough to catch the butterfly’s attention.


Jim Knudsen, the Village Engineering Services Director presented Carol Stream Mayor Frank Saverino with a Monarch Waystation sign.

Known for its spectacular fall migration between the US and Mexico, the eastern monarch is experiencing challenges. Its population has declined by as much as 90% in recent years, with the primary factor responsible being loss of milkweed, necessary for reproduction. Milkweed is an essential component of monarch habitat. Research indicates milkweed is disappearing as Round Up applications have increased on GMO Round Up ready crops and agricultural land is converted to other uses.

Identifying existing monarch habitat is important for knowing the best locations for planting additional milkweed in Dupage County. Monarch Joint Venture’s Monarch Recovery Plan calls for one billion new milkweed stems to restore the butterfly population to a size capable of bouncing back from extreme weather events and other threats.

Suburban gardens can also qualify as monarch habitat. Milkweed and nectar plants are attractive garden plants and provide monarchs with much needed breeding sites and refueling stations. It might be called a garden, prairie, park or vacant lot but monarchs can call it home.

Criteria for waystation designation can be found at:


Native Plant Sales – 2016

You’ve made plans for a butterfly/pollinator friendly garden, the plant list is complete and now you’re on the hunt for where to buy native plants.

There are several native plant sales coming up this spring, some with pre-order options.  If the plant sales don’t offer everything you need, there are native plant nurseries in the area that might be able to fill your wish list.


April 25, 2016 Last day to order plants, pick up May 18, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm                         Kane-Dupage Soil and Water Conservation District

April 30, 2016 8:30 am – noon City of Wheaton, Wheaton Environmental Improvement Commission and Wheaton Park District Native Plant Sale

May 1, 2016 – 10:00 am – 2:00 pm Schaumburg Community Garden Club

May 6, 2016 11:00 am – 7:00 pm, May 7 9:00 am – 3:00 pm Mayslake Peabody Estate         Forest Preserve District of DuPage County


A list of native plant growers, nurseries and outlets is available on the Wild Ones Greater Dupage Chapter website at



Table for 200?

The word is spreading: Monarchs need milkweeds. They’re the
only plants their caterpillars will eat. It makes sense, then, that
people concerned with the drop in monarchs in the U.S. are
adding milkweeds to parks and backyard gardens. The plants’
stems and leaves provide an irreplaceable diet for caterpillars,
and the flowers feed adult butterflies and bees. But as many
gardeners will attest, those aren’t the only guests showing up
for dinner.
Expecting to find only hungry caterpillars, many gardeners are
alarmed when they see their milkweeds covered with tiny
orange bugs: oleander aphids. Just like monarch caterpillars,
these insects feed on the plants’ sap. They may be unsightly,
but they’re typically harmless.

Read More

Elmhurst Mayor Proclaims April 22nd as Monarch Butterfly Day

In recognition of the monarch’s decline, Mayor Morley joined the many groups working to conserve and protect the Illinois state butterfly by proclaiming April 22nd as Monarch Butterfly Day in Elmhurst.

Schools, churches, businesses, residents and governments are taking action to help monarchs by planting monarch friendly gardens with milkweed for caterpillars, nectar plants that attract adults and reducing the use of insecticides.

Everyone is invited to join in the celebration of Monarch Butterfly Day by planting a monarch waystation.  Learn more about monarch waystations at:

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