Endangered Species in Northbrook

Rusty patched bumble beebb

To receive a free Rusty-Patched Bumblebee garden sign, your garden must: 

1) contain native wildflower species, such as Coneflower or Milkweed, 

2) exclude pesticides, and

3) leave the leaves in a “no-mow” area on all or a portion of your property.

rpbb pic

Illustrations of a rusty patched bumble bee queen (left), worker (center), and male (right). Courtesy of Xerces Society.   

In Northbrook, we share our environment with the critically endangered rusty patched bumblebee: the chemicals we use in our backyards impact the fate of this species. Beyond global climate change, scientists have cited reasons for its decline such as environmental degradation and contamination from petro-chemicals, pesticides, and inorganic fertilizers. Bumblebees can absorb toxins directly through their exoskeleton and through contaminated nectar and pollen. Rusty patched bumble bees nest in the ground and may be susceptible to compounds that persist in agricultural soils, lawns and turf.

Map: Red indicates areas where the rusty patched bumble bee is present. Yellow considers the maximum dispersal potential of the species from sites with recent records. Both areas are considered important for conservation actions. Source: USFWS


This species of bumblebee historically native to Midwestern and eastern North America. Its numbers have declined in 87% of its original habitat range. In 2017, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) placed it on the list of endangered species, making the rusty patched bumblebee the first bee to be added to the list in the continental United States. Today the species is not just endangered but considered critically threatened and near extinction. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is monitoring the remnant populations of the rusty patched bumble bee. According to their findings, Northbrook is one of the only hotspots of this species left in Cook County and the world.

The endangered bee is present in Northbrook’s natural areas and has the ability to forage for nectar within a 3-mile range of its nesting site. Given all we know about the rusty patched bumble bee, what can Northbrook residents do to help? 

To learn more, see the USFWS fact sheet or read the full article from Northbrook's staff.

Somme Woods as habitat refuge

A recent study from UIUC (http://ow.ly/wWy330rIkpK) on the rusty patched bumblebee finds that forest plants blooming in spring appear to be declining, and the timing of those flowers matches up almost perfectly with when queens are out and foraging. Unfortunately, many forest preserves within Cook County are suffering with invasions from introduced plant species, such as Lesser Celandine or Siberian Squill. These non-native spring blooms outcompete our native ones for space, light, and nutrients on the forest floor.

Thankfully, Northbrook has dedicated volunteers working year-round on invasive species control and native plant revitalization. As a result, spring beauties like Eastern Shooting Star and Wild Geranium grace the forest floor for queen bees to enjoy.Northbrook would like to thank our community members involved in local conservation such as the Somme Woods Community restoration project. If you would like to get involved in this effort, email sommepreserve@gmail.com.


Monarch butterfly

In December of 2017, Village President Sandy Frum signed the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, thus committing to create habitat for the monarch butterfly and pollinators and to educate citizens about how they can make a difference at home and in their community. See the Village Monarch proclamation here. The Village President resigned its commitment to monarch conservation in December of 2020 and looks forward to sustained and increasing related programming in Northbrook in 2021.

Monarch WayStation Program

YOU can help make a difference! In an effort to make the Village of Northbrook a resource-filled pit stop for our beloved pollinators on their travels, the Village’s Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) encourages residents to plant milkweed, a native plant that is necessary to complete the monarch life cycle. Monarchs exclusively lay eggs on milkweed as it is the only food source that the monarch caterpillar will eat. Residential gardens that sustain Monarch’s during their annual migration are eligible to receive a “Let’s Make Northbrook a Monarch Way Station” garden sign. To be eligible, gardens must:

  1. Contain native plants.
  2. Exclude exposure to pesticides.
  3. Contain at least three (3) native milkweed plants, planted in close proximity to one another. 

Email a picture of your butterfly garden to tessa.murray@northbrook.il.us to receive a sign. For more information on building a way station, visit monarchwatch.org

Pesticides and pollinators

Pesticides are herbicides and insecticides used to control invasive plants and nuisance/disease-carrying insects. Pesticides are appropriate in some cases but should not be misused or overused. Research has shown that pesticides contribute to the decline of important pollinators, most notably bees. Before resorting to pesticide applications in your outdoor space, please review this checklist provided by Northbrook's Environmental Quality Commission. If considering a mosquito control service for your home, please consult this fact sheet put together in collaboration with Midwest Grows Green and North Shore Mosquito Abatement District (NSMAD).

Northbrook is serviced by two public health agencies for bug-carrying diseases, both of which utilizing Integrated Pest Management to address the health concerns of diseases in our area as well as the threat of pesticides causing resistance and impacts on pollinators. On March 18, 2021 the Director of NSMAD presented the following information to the Environmental Quality Commission.


Please read the fine print and follow instructions of pesticide application carefully. Neonicotinoids are a type of insecticide linked to adverse health effects in bees, and mammalian species such as birds. The chemical agent in neonicotinoids is used in a number of professionally applied and commercially available lawn products including Bayer Tree and Shrub, Treeage, and Sevin. Some commercially available herbicides contain dangerous active ingredients as well. In consideration of your community's health, prioritize organic alternatives and only use pesticides when necessary.