Year of the Butterfly

Monarch butterfly populations have been in decline for years. One main reason is habitat loss, especially the decline in native plants such as milkweed, which feeds monarch caterpillars.

In response, our community is coming together to celebrate 2021 as the “Year of the Butterfly.” Mark your calendars for Monarch Summer Fest and more!

Monarch butterfly on milkweed
“Every milkweed stem counts. Every nectar-producing wildflower brings the monarch one step closer to survival.” —The Illinois Monarch Project, whose goal is to add 150 million new milkweed stems and other nectar resources to the Illinois landscape by 2038.

About the Year of the Butterfly

The Village of Oak Park has proclaimed 2021 as the “Year of the Butterfly.” This proclamation, that butterflies inspire hope and renewal, was written by the Brooks Middle School Earth Action Team.

Inspired and guided by this proclamation and the Illinois Monarch Project, your library has joined with local partners to bring awareness to our community about how to support a healthy habitat for butterflies and other pollinators. By working together, we want to spark hopeful action through activities, engagement, education, and stewardship.

Monarch Summer Fest

Oak Park and River Forest school groups, congregations, nonprofits, and more are coming together to schedule events and activities to help inform residents about butterflies, especially monarchs, including some of the dangers they face and what can be done to help. For example:

  • Oak Park Public Library will offer a Year of the Butterfly Storytime Series on Wednesdays in May at 10 am, and a Middle School Book Group for grades 5-8 (see events on this page); kids summer reading challenges; free milkweed seed kits; and pollinator garden planting at the Main Library and Maze Branch.
  • Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory is planning a series of family-friendly activities on Saturdays this summer (June 12, July 10, August 14). 
  • West Cook Wild Ones will host monarch-related talks in May, and offer milkweed and monarch kits during their spring native plant sale.
  • Interfaith Green Network will be encouraging congregation green teams to plan activities with their faith communities.

Coming soon: Request a free milkweed seed kit from your library

Monarchs need milkweed. To help support the Illinois Monarch Project goal of adding 150 million new milkweed stems and other nectar resources to the state by 2038, we will be giving away a limited number of butterfly milkweed seed kits in June.

Coming soon: request a kit online.

In the works: Pollinator gardens at the Main Library & Maze Branch

We’re plotting and planning now for new pollinator gardens outside the Main Library entrance and at Maze Branch.

One of the main goals of the Maze Branch Accessibility Garden is to provide an accessible and inclusive space for all that has a variety of learning opportunities. The addition of a pollinator garden will encourage meaningful intergenerational interactions with individuals about the environment, as well as contribute positively to creating habitats where butterflies can thrive.

We hope to register the garden as a Monarch Waystation.

We’re planning for new pollinator gardens at the Main Library and Maze Branch (shown here).

Plan your own pollinator garden

We’ll be sharing more resources in the coming weeks and months, but in the meantime here are a few to help you start thinking about planting your own pollinator-friendly gardens:

More about the Year of the Butterfly Proclamation

Thanks to students on the Brooks Middle School Earth Action Team (BEAT), 2021 is now the Year of the Butterfly.

Their proclamation, which was adopted by the Village of Oak Park in February, is timely and hopeful, and it encourages action. It reads in part:

WHEREAS, we know everyone has been suffering through one of the harshest years, 2020, but is it only humans suffering? No, many other species are, too. One large group of species is especially threatened with becoming extinct—butterflies.

WHEREAS, citizens need to know that butterflies lay their eggs on certain host plants, like milkweed, plantain and oak trees, and caterpillars feed on milkweed, parsley, dill and other native flowers, and they make their chrysalises on many native plants and many need undisturbed leaves to survive the winter, we all need to join together to learn how create the habitat that many different kinds of butterflies need to thrive.

WHEREAS, butterflies as a symbol of hope and immortality can inspire us to keep going through a difficult time; as a symbol of beauty, they can remind us that the smallest things are also important; as a symbol of transformation, they remind us that things can get better.

Read the entire Year of the Butterfly Proclamation »

Oak Park Elementary School District 97 reports that students got the idea to launch a community-wide effort after learning that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decided to postpone listing the monarch butterfly as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The students’ efforts also coincide with the launch of the Illinois Monarch Action Plan by the Illinois Monarch Project (see below).

More about the Illinois Monarch Project

Formed in 2016, the Illinois Monarch Project is a coalition of agencies, organizations, and individuals committed to helping monarch butterflies thrive throughout Illinois.

From its website: “Over the past 20 years, the eastern monarch population has faced a significant decline in migratory habitat. The Illinois Monarch Project collaborates with public and private partners, in addition to individuals across the state, to protect and enhance existing habitat and establish new habitat that supports monarch butterflies and other pollinators.”

As part of a regional effort, the project is committed to the goal of adding 150 million new milkweed stems and other nectar resources to the Illinois landscape by 2038. Read the Illinois Monarch Action Plan to learn more »

Year of the Butterfly collaborators

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