HPL butterfly event 2018-06-16 168
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Village of Flossmoor pledges to preserve the monarch butterfly; Green Commission makes educational video

A youngster reaches out to a monarch during an event featuring butterflies at Homewood Public Library in 2018. (Chronicle file photo)

The Flossmoor Green Commission is working to help reinvigorate the Monarch butterfly population in Illinois with preparations for milkweed gardens, and an informational video for the public showing the stages of a butterfly that was prepared by a Homewood-Flossmoor High School student.

In February, at the suggestion of the Green Commission, former Flossmoor Mayor Paul Braun joined with more than 100 mayors nationwide who signed the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge to stimulate the monarch butterfly population in Illinois.

In enacting this pledge, the Flossmoor Green Commission has been planting milkweed and other pollinating plants throughout Flossmoor, including on village property. Milkweed is the only plant the monarch butterflies lay eggs on and the only plant the monarch capitular consumes. 

“Milkweed is critical to its success as a species, along with many other insect species, all of which are native to Illinois and the Illinois prairie,” said Phil DeSantis of the Flossmoor Green Commission. 


The monarch butterfly is Illinois’ state insect, but its population numbers have dwindled in recent decades. While it isn’t considered an endangered species, in 2020 the yearly count of monarchs decreased by 53%, according to a study by the University of Illinois. 

“The plan right now is to have three to four pollinating gardening sites throughout Flossmoor – some of which would overlap into some of the H-F parks,” said DeSantis. “At this point, the three or four sites could contain dozens of milkweed plants that would support hundreds of monarch butterflies or more throughout the season.”

DeSantis said the commission is currently in the process of clearing these sites with the village and planting the pollinating plants. These sites include Leavitt Park, Flossmoor Park and an area near Butterfield Creek.

Flossmoor’s newly elected mayor Michelle Nelson said the pollinator garden at Leavitt Park would be dedicated to Braun.

In addition to taking action to help preserve monarch butterfly populations, the aim of the pledge is to “educate residents about how they can make a difference at home and in our community,” said Laura Brennan-Levy of the Village of Flossmoor. 

Jennifer O’Keefe, a member of the Flossmoor Green Commission, noticed over the summer that she had two monarch caterpillars in her backyard after she planted milkweed seeds. With the help of her daughters and son, she put the caterpillars in a habitat, watched them grow and turn into chrysalis and butterflies. O’Keefe said she and her family took pictures and/or videos every day to document the growth.  

O’Keefe said she thought this footage would be great for an educational video. She sent the footage and a descriptive voiceover to Benjamin Turnquest, a Homewood-Flossmoor High School senior and Flossmoor Green Commission student liaison. 

Turnquest combed through the footage, edited it and put together a video called The Monarch Butterfly Journey.

The video follows the progress of two caterpillars that O’Keefe describes as “about the size of a piece of rice” as they are being put into a netted, outdoor container. In the habitat, they nibble on the milkweed before turning into butterflies. One butterfly flies away on its own and the other is released into the wild by O’Keefe. 

The film “can be a resource for people and last for years to come,” O’Keefe said. “It was a nice little collaboration that we did remotely and we’re really happy with the way it turned out. Already we’ve had a few educators say that they want to use it for schools.”

“Monarch butterflies are very needed in the environment, as pollinators, food for other wildlife and as overall contributors to our ecosystem,” Turnquest said. “I hope the video shows that raising monarchs is definitely attainable in Flossmoor and demonstrates the importance of helping to cultivate an environment that supports the monarch butterfly.”

“The monarch to me represents a concept of conservation that’s very specific to Illinois,”  DeSantis said. “I don’t think of the monarch as just a really cool, interesting and beautiful insect. It’s much more about the symbol of what it means to do something simple, do something local and engage the village overall.”

The National Wildlife Federation’s website lists three actions the village of Flossmoor has taken to preserve the monarch butterfly, including issuing “a proclamation to raise awareness about the decline of the monarch butterfly;” hosting or supporting “a native seed or plant sale, giveaway or swap;” and planting milkweed and other pollinators. 

The pledge also includes “convert[ing] vacant lots to monarch habitat” and planting “a monarch and pollinator-friendly demonstration garden at City Hall.” Flossmoor hasn’t taken those steps.

Monarch butterflies perch on a screen while children in the background learn about butterflies at a 2018 event at Homewood Public Library. (Chronicle file photo)

“The village board and I were originally concerned about the program because we didn’t want this to become mandatory that we have to produce so many acres of milkweed here in the village every year,” Braun said. “There are no actual hard requirements we have to do for counting or anything. […] It’s basically aspirational.” 

Or as DeSantis put it, the pledge is a “non-binding contract” to “make smart decisions that can support the monarch butterfly’s growth and success.”

Monarch butterflies perch on a screen while children in the background learn about butterflies at a 2018 event at Homewood Public Library. (Chronicle file photo)

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