DeKALB – A stroll or bike ride down the Kishwaukee River Bike Path just north of the East Hillcrest Drive bridge is a colorful site as newly formed monarch butterfly habitats bloom, part of local efforts and through the Illinois Monarch Project.
Monarch butterflies were once a common sight in northern Illinois, as millions migrated south across the continent to warmer climates for the winter months. They now are an endangered species though, due in part to habitat destruction and to the removal of milkweed plants around the region, said Mark Eddington, district manager for the Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District.
In 2017, district staff restored two acres of property from mowed turf grass to native wildflowers, including milkweed. Two years later, the efforts are being realized.
“People love it,” Eddington said Tuesday, adding that native plant restoration is important for a number of reasons. “It aids the Monarch butterfly and other pollinators like bees. Native prairies and their deep root structure are able to absorb more rainwater than typical turf grass. And the transition to native prairie, while not completely maintenance free, significantly reduces man-hours spent on mowing.”
After conducting controlled burns on the areas, staff planted milkweed seeds, yellow and purple coneflower, wild bergamot and other native pollinators.
Part of the statewide Illinois Monarch Project, the district’s two acres are split over three spots in the city: one field directly north of Lawnwood Avenue on the west side of Sycamore Road. The other is adjacent to the water reclamation district’s facility south entrance, 1301 Sycamore Road.
The third site is the largest and can be seen along the Kishwaukee River Bike Path near Deprin Park, 327 E. Hillcrest Drive.
Eddington says in addition the helping restore habitats for butterflies, the spaces also aid neighborhood beautification efforts.
“Over the past two months, the district has received several compliments from our neighbors and folks on the bike path,” Eddington said. “One neighbor that had been growing her own monarch butterfly larva released it into the prairie.”
Eddington said the sites also are used by Adventure Works to bring clients through the prairies as part of their therapeutic efforts.
The district also registered its habitats with the national organization Monarch Watch, to officially certify the sites as Monarch Waystations.
Source: The Daily Chronicle