During the summer, many use candles, tiki torches and bug zappers to get rid of any insects nearby. However, this year, ArcelorMittal steelworkers have been partnering with their training center, JobLink, to try to bring more of a certain type of insect to East Chicago.
JobLink, with funding from Foundations of East Chicago, has created a monarch butterfly garden in the 3000 block of Michigan Avenue in East Chicago. Those tasked with maintaining this garden are volunteer ArcelorMittal employees who chose to take JobLink’s class on planting and landscape design.
According to a statement in the NWI Times by JobLink Coordinator Marcia Taylor, the garden started out as nothing more than a beautification project. It wasn’t until after plans for the garden were underway that Taylor realized that the low-maintenance plants which she intended to incorporate in the garden were beneficial to traveling monarch butterflies.
The garden is about 50 feet in diameter and contains $1,000 in native plants, including various types of milkweed, the monarchs’ primary food source. FEC granted the group the money for the plants which made the project possible.
Each fall, millions of monarch butterflies migrate from the east coast to California and Mexico for warmer weather. In order to travel so many miles, the butterflies need to rest in areas where they can regain their strength by consuming the nectar of the milkweed plant. However, human development and use of pesticides have destroyed many native milkweed plants in recent years. This has caused a decrease in the monarch population as well, as many cannot survive the annual migration without a steady supply of food for energy.
Areas where milkweed plants grow in NWI are beneficial to local butterfly and bird populations as well as those that migrate. Taylor and others who are working on the garden on Michigan Avenue hope that the butterflies will make East Chicago one of their stops this fall.