Chicago: Butterfly Nannies

The population status of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has been in decline due to the loss of habitat, lack of availability of milkweed (main source of food), removal of native plants, and the use of pesticides. Due to this alarming decline in the monarch population, the TechLaw Chicago office collaboratively decided to become Butterfly Nannies! As part of this project, each of us received 12-inch-tall butterfly habitats and milkweed plants (supplied to us by our very own Nicole Goers). Some of us gathered eggs from our gardens, while others ordered caterpillars. And from there on, our mission to rescue these beautiful butterflies began; you can call us the Chicago butterfly superheroes!

The majority of the group raised their caterpillars indoors in the butterfly habitats or other contrivances; we had one brave soul (Nicole) who raised them in netting outdoors. Despite losing some caterpillars after a summer rainstorm, Nicole’s caterpillars devoured the two milkweed plants that were in the netting with them. Mike Powers and his family had a similar caterpillar farm, sourcing eggs and milkweed from their garden but raising the caterpillars indoors. We were inspired to plant milkweed in our yards, and those with existing plants expanded their acreage to promote the “wild” population.

In addition to raising numerous healthy butterflies, we also encountered some of the issues faced by the population at large. For example, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (a protozoan parasite) is a disease that has been decimating the butterfly population; it also impacted our efforts. To prevent the spread of the disease, we took the approach of isolating our impacted pals from the rest of the crew and not releasing them into the wild. One such butterfly (by the name of Flappy) suffered from poorly formed wings and other issues. Much to our astonishment, Flappy hung out with us for over a month!

In total, we estimate that we introduced over 100 healthy monarch butterflies into the wild population! Noting that only a handful of eggs out of 100 generally survive the metamorphosis, our limited effort made a big impact.
For more information about creating monarch habitat in your own yard or container garden and become a butterfly hero, please check out: