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.
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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.