Driving Innovation

Teaming up to save the monarch

July 25, 2019

The intricate orange and black detail of the monarch butterfly makes it one of the most loved and recognized insects. Yet these butterflies, once a familiar sight, may be on the path toward extinction.

Due to the drastic population decline of monarch’s in the last 20 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is evaluating whether the species should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Milkweed is critical to the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly, and FWS has determined that 1.3 billion additional stems of milkweed are needed just to stabilize the eastern population of monarchs.

When Marla Westerhold, senior program manager of vegetation management at ComEd, became aware of the severity of the issue, she decided she couldn’t sit back and watch the disappearance of the iconic insect.

“When I first heard that number of 1.3 billion milkweed seeds, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. What does that mean for Illinois? What does that mean for ComEd land?” Westerhold said. “Then I thought, ComEd can help distribute 1 million seeds, an ambitious goal but a significant number.”