Illinois roadside mowing picks back up with monarch butterflies in mind

(The Center Square) – The Illinois Department of Transportation and local governments are back in their road ditches for the summer, mowing down grass, but still keeping some ditches hospitable to the official state bug.

The department is warning motorists to be alert for these tractors along the side of the road as well as driving on it at slow speeds.

“Between July 1 and August 15 is the most extensive mowing period,” IDOT spokesman Paul Wappel said. “We want to let motorists know to keep a lookout. They’ll see our crews out cutting the grass.”

Not all road ditches will be cut at the same time.

“In recent years, we have revised our mowing practices to help maintain habitat for pollinators, including the monarch butterfly, which is the official state insect and is at risk of being declared endangered.”

In June of 2017, the state began staggering it’s mowing cycles in hopes of keeping some milkweed, the monarch butterfly’s primary food source, standing. IDOT has won national honors from several organizations for its work in protecting the butterflies.

The colorful migrating insect has been the official insect of Illinois since 1975 and has seen its population drop considerably in recent decades. Monarchs are part of the group of pollinators that play an important role in the state’s ecosystem.

Agricultural herbicides have had a role in the decline of the milkweed plant because it’s invasive to commercial products like soybeans.

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