CHICAGO — Swarms of monarch butterflies have been flying around Downtown as they prepare for their annual migration south.
Huge groups of butterflies have been seen this week at the Shedd Aquarium and Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. They’re traveling south as part of their annual migration, and this time of year is usually when there’s a peak of the butterflies in Chicago.
The butterflies could be seen Thursday at the Museum Campus, where they were resting in the Shedd Aquarium’s gardens, said aquarium spokesman Johnny Ford. Workers counted 150 in a few trees — but they expect there were many more hidden in the trees, and there were also many in the aquarium’s gardens.
The butterflies do stay together when resting, but they’ll make the journey to Mexico individually, aquarium staff told Ford. They’ll cluster together when hibernating over the winter.
Watch video of the butterflies at the Shedd:
Hundreds of monarch butterflies were also seen Saturday night at Lurie Garden, said Jo ana Kubiak, the communications manager for the garden.
That’s happened at least once before, in 2018. A video shows the butterflies on a tree during that migration:
The orange and black butterflies might be highly visible now, but they are dying off in Chicago and are considered near-endangered nationally. Experts have said they could disappear from Chicago entirely due to climate change and other factors.
The Shedd is trying to help the monarchs by growing plants they like — like milkweed, echinacea, hyssop and salvia — in its pesticide-free grounds, according to its spokesman.
In and around Chicago, butterflies — and other species — are dying off because of climate change habitat destruction, Andrew Wetzler, managing director of the Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Block Club in May 2019. That’s seen by the conversion of prairie and other native grasses into farmland.
The biggest thing a Chicagoan can do is to convert his or her front yard or backyard from a lawn into a spot with native plants — like milkweed, which butterflies love — and to stop using pesticides and fertilizers, Wetzler said.
“Native plants attract pollinators. They provide food for bees and butterflies,” Wetzler said. “Those insects then can provide food for birds and other species. The more native habitat we can restore, the better.”
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