monarch butterfly

Wendy Caldwell/ The Monarch Lab

The first "Monarch Blitz" is over. 300 people in the U.S. participated by counting eggs, caterpillars, chrysalides, and butterflies. The citizen scientists then submitted their findings to the Monarch Lab at the University of Minnesota.

This first Monarch Blitz included the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Spokeswoman Cora Lund Preston said the results will help researchers find out where Monarchs reproduce, then learn what makes habitat good or bad for them. Their numbers have declined drastically over the past 20 years.

By William Warby (https://flic.kr/p/dtKZF2) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Illinois Department of Transportation is revising its mowing routes along state highways this spring and summer to only 15 feet beyond the edge of the roadway. 

The move is meant to encourage the growth of critical plant species like milkweed, a primary source of food for pollinators including monarch butterflies. 

The monarch butterfly is the Illinois state insect. Its population has declined by 80% in the past 10 years.  

Wikimedia Commons

Milkweed could become the Illinois state wildflower under legislation pending in the General Assembly. 

Vanessa Tyler is a Girl Scout who attends Pleasant Plains Middle School, near Springfield. She and her troop lobbied lawmakers to support the proposed state designation. She says it’ll help people think twice about killing milkweed.

Peggy Doty

Monarch butterflies have started their long, three-generation migration north. Last year, a late-winter storm reduced their numbers drastically. It could be two months before they show up in Illinois again, but there are ways to start preparing for their return.

"Monarch Butterfly" By Flickr User Paul Stein / (CC X 2.0)

Butterfly observers in Illinois are seeing a phenomenon this year that is playing out nationally: As the monarch starts its near-3,000-mile winter migration from Canada to Mexico, their observed numbers were extremely low.

Chicago Academy of Sciences chief curator Doug Taron tells The Chicago Tribune the monarch is "the second or third most common species" of butterfly that observers record, but that this year, it's the "seventh."

"Monarch" by Flickr User John Flannery / (CC BY 2.0)

A Senate Democrat is proposing a special Illinois license plate to help preserve the monarch butterfly.

The plan by state Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake is to allow motorists to pay a surcharge for stickers to indicate their support for the insect's viability.

The monarch population in Illinois has decreased 90 percent in the past two decades because of changes in habitat.

Bush says monarchs need milkweed plants to lay eggs and feed.