DECATUR– Thanks to the lobbying 40 years ago of a group of school kids from Decatur, the monarch butterfly is the official Illinois insect – but it’s in decline.
Twenty years ago, a billion butterflies migrated from the Midwest to Mexico and back. Now the number of 56.5 million, says Rebecca Riley of the Natural Resources Defense Council. The culprit: Lack of milkweed, which is where the butterflies lay their eggs, and what the monarch caterpillars eat before they become butterflies.
“We used to have milkweed growing alongside and in, actually, the fields planted with corn and soybeans, and as we started spraying those fields more heavily with a pesticide called Roundup®, that’s actually killed most of the milkweed that the monarch used to rely on,” Riley said.
The plan is to get milkweed planted along highways. There’s a bill under consideration in the General Assembly to sell butterfly license plates at $20 above the regular registration price to raise money to do that. The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) and State Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake). It has passed the House Transportation Committee.