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Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:01 am

SAVE THE MONARCHS

Illinois’ state insect is dwindling in population.

There has been a 90 percent decrease in the U.S. population of monarch butterflies, Illinois’ state insect, since the mid-1990s, according to a group of natural resource leaders. The group sent a request to the White House April 14 for policy changes, such as habitat protection, that could help boost the butterfly numbers.

The population drop is largely due to a decline in the number of milkweed plants, which the monarchs need for food on their annual migration from Canada to Mexico. Herbicide use has reduced the presence of milkweeds in the U.S., according to National Geographic.

The recent national attention to monarch losses led the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to share a list of tips for conserving milkweed. Residents can include milkweed and flowering plants in their landscaping, avoid mowing or spraying herbicide on milkweed patches and reduce mowing along roadsides and field edges where such plants tend to grow in order to help the monarch population.

The Illinois General Assembly adopted the monarch butterfly as the state insect in 1975 after encouragement from third-grade classes in Decatur.

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