Monarch populations have rapidly declined due to loss of habitat and climate change.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) has partnered with the Illinois Monarch Project to help save monarch butterflies. The Illinois Monarch Project encourages its stakeholders to address conservation and engage public and private landowners to protect the butterflies from becoming extinct. New studies suggest that monarch butterfly populations have rapidly declined due to habitat loss and climate change, resulting from development, poor land management practices, illegal logging and heavy reliance on pesticides and herbicides in the United States and Canada. While the butterflies have declined, so has milkweed, which is the sole source of food for monarch caterpillars.
As the regional authority for stormwater management, the MWRD has invested in native prairie landscaping across its land because native plants, like milkweed, play an important role in absorbing more water. With extensive root systems, native plants can help reduce flooding and also help improve local water quality.
The goal of the Illinois Monarch Project is to add 150 million new streams of milkweed embedded in diverse nectar-producing plants by 2038.
The Role of Native Plants
In addition to providing food and habitat for monarch butterflies and other species, native plants such as milkweed can help prevent flooding by soaking up rainwater. They also reduce runoff, which can enter the sewer system and contribute to basement backups and sewer overflows to rivers and streams. Planting milkweed and other native plants is a great way to help protect your home from flooding, provide habitat for wildlife, and prevent water pollution. For more information about native landscaping see our Green Neighbor Guide.
Win Free Milkweed Seeds
We had planned to distribute free milkweed seed packets while participating in community outreach events. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are encouraging visitors to take our online pledge to enter a drawing for the free seeds. Your support is greatly needed and appreciated. Join us in our efforts by planting milkweed.
Be sure to provide your complete first and last name, mailing address (including zip code) and email address. We’ll contact you if you are a winner. Please allow two – three weeks for processing and delivery. Once you receive your packet, follow the directions, located on the back cover, for preparing your seeds before you plant them. Collectively, we can replenish the monarch butterfly’s habitat and help save it from extinction!
Let’s get social!
Share your plant’s journey (including your seed preparation) via a photo or a 30- or 60-second video on our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page using the hashtags #SavetheMonarchs #IllinoisMonarchProject. We may showcase you in a feature promotion!
Just for fun!
Test your knowledge about monarch butterflies with this fun quiz!
- The Illinois Monarch Project has a wonderful publication that highlights the plight of the monarch butterfly, explains the importance of milkweed for its reproductive cycle, and offers a wealth of additional information to help you better understand the significance of the public support needed to help save the butterfly from becoming extinct.
Visit http://flipbook.ilfb3.org/monarchflipbook/index.html?page=6 to learn more.
- The monarch butterfly, like other insects, has several life forms and stages prior to reaching adulthood. The monarch has four distinct life stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult. Source: U.S. Forest Service For more information visit
- Most monarchs will live only a few weeks, but the generation that emerges in late summer and early fall is different. These butterflies are born to travel and may live for eight or nine months to accomplish their lengthy migration. Scientists think the monarchs use the position of the sun and the changing weather to know when it’s time for their long journey.
Source: National Park Service. Visit www.nps.gov to learn more.
- Cook County is part of the monarch butterfly’s annual migration route from Mexico to Canada, providing a stopover or visit to native milkweed species. In 1975, Illinois designated the iconic monarch butterfly as the official state insect after the idea was suggested by third graders from Decatur. Learn more at Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
- The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) brings together partners from across the U.S. in a unified effort to conserve the monarch migration. These actions are organized in an annually updated Monarch Conservation Implementation Plan, which serves as a framework to guide conservation planning for individuals, partners, or other interested stakeholders nationally. Source: U.S. Forest Service for more info, visit https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/Monarch_Butterfly/.
- According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), monarch butterflies also serve as pollinators supporting natural ecosystems. as well as for human food production, and pheasant, quail, waterfowl and many other species.
- The USFWS has developed a database to capture information about ongoing and planned conservation efforts for the monarch butterfly. Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Visit https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html for more information.
- The annual migration of North America’s monarch butterfly is a unique and amazing phenomenon. The monarch is the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration as birds do. Unlike other butterflies that can overwinter as larvae, pupae, or even as adults in some species, monarchs cannot survive the cold winters of northern climates. Using environmental cues, the monarchs know when it is time to travel south for the winter. Monarchs use a combination of air currents and thermals to travel long distances. Some fly as far as 3,000 miles to reach their winter home!
Source: U.S. Forest Service
- Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN) has an Illinois Community College Monarch Migration Network to help save the monarch butterfly. According to IGEN, the network is committed to modeling monarch conservation on college campuses by creating habitat, educating students and the public, and forming partnerships to help the butterflies flourish.
- National parks are taking various actions to support monarchs, and milkweed is a key tool in their fight. Learn more at National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/articles/national-parks-pitch-in-to-help-save-monarch-butterflies.htm
- The Field Museum Keller Science Action Center asks community scientists from across the Chicago region to document the survivorship of monarch butterfly caterpillars on milkweed plants around their community. Learn how to help at https://monarch-community-science-fieldmuseum.hub.arcgis.com/
Do you have monarch facts you want to share? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and in the email subject line list “Monarch butterfly facts.”