Huntley woman raises butterflies to release into the wild
Gerriann Gerritsen of Huntley has released more than 300 butterflies that she has raised this year.
"This is so sad," Gerritsen said after releasing some of her last butterflies last week. "I can't believe I let them go."
Gerritsen's efforts this year weren't her first foray into raising them. She and her daughter raised butterflies 30 years ago.
Despite her experience, Gerritsen encountered a new learning curve.
"Learning how to feed them was exhausting," Gerritsen said. "You found out what works and what doesn't work."
Gerritsen said she had about 25 butterflies in early September 2022 but didn't want to release them in McHenry County, judging the weather to be too cold.
She happened to be heading to Springfield for a meeting and contacted churches, school groups and others there to see if she could give them butterflies, which had to be released in Illinois.
Gerritsen eventually gave them to a teacher who had raised butterflies in the classroom before.
The monarch butterfly, Illinois' state insect since 1975, is not quite endangered. But there aren't as many as there once were.
"The numbers are down," said Carol Elkins, an ambassador for the Xerces Society. "Everyone wants to be hopeful."
Elkins is concerned about lawn pesticides hurting butterflies.
"Reducing pesticides and herbicides is really important," Elkins said. "Finding pesticide-free plants is really difficult for them."
Gerritsen said she catches a lot of butterflies in her yard, but she tries to get them as eggs, which tend to be disease-free.
"If I can get them at the egg stage, I'm ahead of the game," Gerritsen said.
Residents can help monarch butterflies by planting beebalms, zinnias, Mexican sunflowers, delphiniums and foxgloves in their gardens.
"These are all pretty flowers," Gerritsen said.