There’s one more butterfly in The Park today

All butterflies, but especially the Monarch, in Piatt County, in Central Illinois, and throughout the Midwest Corn Belt are becoming ‘extinct.’ From early July until mid-August, intensive aerial application (crop dusting) of pesticides on row crop corn and soybeans is killing the honeybees, all species of butterfly and hummingbirds.

During the July crop dusting, when the Joe-Pye weed begins blooming, the aerial

Two Swallowtail feed on Joe Pye at the Centuar trail head

Two Swallowtail feed on Joe Pye at the Centuar trail head

application of pesticides coincides with the Swallowtail cycle. By nature, birds migrate, insects emerge or hatch based upon food source and season. The Black Swallowtail prefers parsley and dill in the caterpillar stage, but the adults feed on Joe-Pye. In 2006 during a very brief 24 hours in mid-July, the Centaur trail head, lined with Joe-Pye, became gathering place for countless numbers and many varieties of Swallowtail. 2007, as a result of the rapid switch to GMO corn and soybean production, widespread crop dusting began. Every year, this agricultural activity has increased in acres and poundage of pesticide applied. This year, the number of swallowtail seen on this same trail at any given time can be counted on two hands.

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Now, in August, the attention turns to aerial application of pesticide on soybeans. This time of the year coincides when the milkweed are blooming, which is the only plant where the monarch lay their eggs. The caterpillar eat the milkweed, morph into chrysalis and emerge 10-14 days later as fully developed Monarch. Unlike Swallowtail which primarily hibernate in deep crevices or migrate only far enough to climates to winter over with food sources to maintain the generational cycle. The Monarch migrates thousands of miles from Canada to Mexico. Such migration requires several generations of Monarch for each yearly migration. The ‘stop’ in Central Illinois coincides with the prevalence of food available – which is flowering milkweed now primarily found along ditches. Few ditches are left unmown by early July. Owing to habitat loss and extensive pesticide use, we now have very few Monarch butterflies. This disappearance of the Monarch is well documented by scientists. The decline and disappearance of the honeybee population is also well documented. Many factors are at play, but widespread pesticide use is a major factor attributed to this coming extinction. This year we and our neighbors observe a sudden decline in hummingbirds.

This year, in order to do our small part, we have brought caterpillars found on the parsley (favorite of swallowtail) into the house to feed so they can successfully morph into butterflies. They are then released at The Park which is the most pesticide free zone we can find.

Swallowtail Chrysalis ready for Butterfly to Emerge

Swallowtail Chrysalis ready for Butterfly to Emerge

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So far, four have been released.

We have yet to find a Monarch egg or caterpillar.

What are we doing to our environment? What are we doing to our planet?

What do these pesticides do to us?





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Released Swallowtail on one of the pillars at the Centaur trail head


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