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dupage monarch project: communities protecting pollinators

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monarch habitat

Darien Garden Club Joins County Wide Effort to Save Monarch Butterflies

The Darien Garden Club took its first step to save monarch butterflies a few years ago when a butterfly garden was planted at St. John Lutheran Church, the location for its monthly meeting. By 2020, the club was ready to link their educational outreach and monarch habitat projects to the county wide conservation effort by becoming an associate member of the DuPage Monarch Project.  DuPage Monarch Project is a collaboration of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, River Prairie Group of the Illinois Sierra Club, The Conservation Foundation and Wild Ones Greater DuPage Chapter with a goal of supporting and fostering monarch conservation throughout the county by connecting public and private landowners managing land in pollinator friendly ways.

“While enjoying the rewards of maintaining monarch and pollinator habitat many of us were following the exciting progress and inspirational goals set by organizations such as DuPage Monarch Project,” said Cathy Streett, Darien Garden Club Community Outreach/Service Project Chair. “We look forward to working together as an associate member of DMP to advocate for monarch butterflies and in turn all native insects and wildlife.  We hope that our energy and progress in these areas will serve as an example and filter down to others in our community to bring yet more support to struggling insects.”

Conservation education has been a part of the club’s mission from its inception 20 years ago and has been regularly included as a component of their annual Spring Gardening Inspiration event.  Conservation education turned into action when the club learned about the dramatic decrease in the number of eastern monarch butterflies.  Gardeners are uniquely equipped to help butterflies and pollinators as gardens are part of the solution to reversing their decline.  The loss of native trees, shrubs and flowers through urban development and the ongoing conversion of natural areas to farmland is a contributing factor to the dwindling populations of butterflies and native bees.  Yards can replace lost habitat by shrinking the amount of lawn and increasing areas planted with native species, especially milkweed, an essential plant for monarch butterflies.  

Last year, the club provided every member with two native plants to increase the habitat value of their gardens.  Several members’ gardens qualify as native landscaping and have been certified by Conservation@Home, a program of The Conservation Foundation.  The original butterfly garden was also enhanced in 2020 through the addition of 25 new plants.

Butterfly garden at St. John Lutheran Church

Saving milkweed is as important as planting it.  A few years ago, Claudia Borowski, the garden club’s president, walked past a patch of milkweed growing in an easement along a sidewalk near the Darien Police Station and City Hall and noticed evidence of spraying.  The milkweed leaves were dried and curling up, the plants were dying.  Resolved to save them, Borowski learned the land was owned by DuPage County but managed through a contractual agreement with Darien.  She decided the best way to protect the patch of over 80 milkweed plants was by getting permission from the City of Darien to post a Do Not Mow or Spray sign.  She reached out to Dan Gombac, Director of Municipal Services and was granted permission to post the sign.  

Borowski continues to be involved with the rescued milkweed, weeding the patch in summer and removing dead stalks in spring.  The healthy, thriving plants are now providing seeds for members’ gardens and to IDOT for future roadside habitat projects.

“As you can see, it only takes one person’s effort to make a big step in helping one endangered butterfly to reproduce and prosper,” said Claudia Borowski.  “So, think of how much you can do to help save a species. Look around and act.”

DGC’s Community Service Committee has recently attended several summits hosted by the Illinois Monarch Project and is exploring opportunities for working with diverse landowners to improve existing landscaping for monarchs and promote consideration of pollinators and monarchs in the planning of new projects.

“We are excited to support Illinois Monarch Project’s action plan and especially the Route 66 Monarch Flyway initiative.  We plan to provide resources and encourage businesses, public parks, IDOT right of way, and other landowners near local sections of Route 66 to add habitat to  extend the flyway throughout the state,” said Streett. 

The Illinois Monarch Project’s conservation plan extends to 2038.  Its long-range goal of saving the monarch butterfly is well matched to the commitment and enthusiasm of the Darien Garden Club.

Butterflies at the Bolingbrook Golf Club

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.

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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.

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Migrating monarch stops by the Bolingbrook Golf Club to fuel up for the trip.

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.

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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.

 

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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

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