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Drive on to boost monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs only on milkweed plants. | File photo

A push to get car owners in Illinois to help monarch butterflies took flight Monday.

The once common monarch butterfly is in trouble because of the shrinking availability of the milkweed plants that monarch caterpillars feed on, environmental scientists say.

To help reverse the decline, Illinois plans to plant milkweed on highway median strips under a law signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday.

The money will come from new monarch butterfly license plate stickers.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake
State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake

“Monarchs literally cannot survive without milkweed,” state Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said at a news conference Monday at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Bush has advocated for monarch preservation bills for several years. It wasn’t until a generic, decal-based specialty plate was created last year that her efforts gained traction in Springfield.

The monarch sticker is the first design made for the new plates, said Dave Drucker, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office. A design for the sticker will be finalized only once 2,000 residents pledge to buy it.

The sticker will cost $25 each year, Drucker said. Of that fee, $10 will go toward planting milkweed along highway median strips. The sticker fee is in addition to the $101 renewal for the specialty license plate.

Rare for its southward migration each winter, the monarch butterfly will lay eggs only on the milkweed plant, said Doug Taron, vice president of conservation and research at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.