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Local News

Dwindling monarch butterfly population inspires Glen Ellyn kids to take action

Willowbrook Wildlife Center Education Site Manager Sandy Fejt presents material on monarch butterflies at the "Milkweed to Monarch: Doing Our Part to Save the Butterflies" event Saturday at the Glen Ellyn Public Library.
Willowbrook Wildlife Center Education Site Manager Sandy Fejt presents material on monarch butterflies at the "Milkweed to Monarch: Doing Our Part to Save the Butterflies" event Saturday at the Glen Ellyn Public Library.

GLEN ELLYN – Where have all the monarch butterflies gone?

That's the question many Glen Ellyn students and community members have been asking recently as the species faces extinction due to the near-eradication of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar's only food source. Milkweed grows in Midwestern croplands where many monarchs are born.

More than 170 participants turned out Saturday for "Milkweed to Monarch: Doing Our Part to Save the Butterflies," hosted by the Glen Ellyn Public Library. The event attempted to increase awareness for students and community members on what they can do to save the majestic butterflies from extinction.

Glen Ellyn School District 41 has already created a Problem-Based Learning program to try and spur action to save the dwindling species. The program allows students to work together to find solutions to real world problems affecting their community.

Ben Franklin Elementary students kicked off the event by presenting their research and findings on the decline of monarch populations to a panel of experts from the village and Glen Ellyn Environmental Commission. The experts offered advice on how to continue their efforts to save the butterflies.

Saturday's event also provided parents with a demonstration on how to properly plant and care for milkweed plants, a craft session, and a costumed demonstration by students on the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into butterfly.

Organizers hope to get the community excited enough to return in June to participate in a mass planting event with the park district and village. The goal is to create 100 monarch milkweed butterfly gardens throughout Glen Ellyn.

Attendees were also gifted milkweed seeds to plant in their own garden.

Sandy Fejt, Willowbrook Wildlife Center education site manager, emphasized that every little bit helps.

“Our feeling is, overall, if you have a drop of water in a bucket it doesn't seem like that much,” Fejt said. “We're hoping each little drop gives you enough to take a drink of water or water a plant. Each little bit makes a difference.”

The importance of monarch butterflies runs deep within Illinois history. Monarch butterflies were voted state insect by schoolchildren in 1975, and their role as essential pollinators of plants and vegetation makes them worth saving to many Glen Ellyn residents.

It's also the bright orange and black butterflies' beauty and mystery that intrigues their fans.

“There is something about a butterfly that is lighthearted and brings out the kid in you,” Fejt said. “A butterfly is an insect that every generation can connect too. As we get older we have things that are near and dear to us, but a butterfly can reach every age level.”

Renee Grassi, the library's Youth Department director, helped the children champion the initiative to get others involved.

“When we found out there was a decline, we wanted to make a difference," Grassi said. “I think this is the type of initiative that everyone would want to be a part of and this is important to our community.”

– – – –

Milkweed planting day

What: Planting of monarch milkweed gardens in Glen Ellyn

When: 9 to 11 a.m. June 20

Where: Two locations – Maryknoll Park at 845 Pershing Ave.; and the village's municipal parking lot at Glenwood Avenue and Crescent Boulevard

Info: gepark.org/monarch.html

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