Boruff creates a friendlier place for butterflies

Creatures large and small have always found a welcome place in the home of Julie Boruff. Over the years she has raised dogs, nurtured an ant farm, offered shelter to a guinea pig and even welcomed a millipede named Frank. And that's just inside the house.

Outside, Boruff has created a friendly space for monarch butterflies. The creation of an outdoor monarch habitat was part of the plan from the day the Boruffs broke ground on their Hinsdale home more than 10 years ago, Boruff said.

Boruff was introduced to the life cycle of the monarch when her girls, now a junior and senior in high school, attended Seton Montessori in Clarendon Hills. A friend and science teacher gave the family a small monarch habitat and they watched together as the caterpillar inside morphed into a monarch butterfly.

"We watched the monarch go through the whole process," Boruff said. "It's really an amazing transformation."

Today, she's not only attracting monarchs to her own backyard, but helping others to do so, too, through the Hinsdale Monarch Project. Each summer Boruff and her daughters, Maddie and Chelsea, construct several self-enclosed habitats in which to raise monarch butterflies. Through the habitats' clear sides, people can witness for themselves the transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.

Placed in public spaces such as the Hinsdale Public Library, The Community House and The Birches retirement community, the habitats are maintained by the Boruffs throughout the process.

"People just love it," Boruff said.

The caterpillars in the public habitats come from eggs harvested from the Boruffs' own garden.

"Unless you know what you're looking for, they're kind of hard to find," Boruff said, but she and her family have no problem spotting the tiny orbs often found on milkweed plants.

The latest addition to the Hinsdale Monarch Project is a website by the same name. At, visitors can learn about the importance of the monarch butterfly and what they can do to support the species and other pollinators.

The overall message and mission of The Hinsdale Monarch Project is to teach people that they can have an impact on the monarch butterfly population and on the world around them.

"You can do small things to make a difference," Boruff said. That's something she practices not only in her own garden, but throughout the community.

While she no longer works as an accountant, Boruff finds ways to share her years of experience both as a member of the Hinsdale Central High School Booster Board and as treasurer on the District 181 Foundation Board. She's helped several other nonprofits, too, helping them to find and manage the tools they need to keep their numbers in proper order.

For several years Boruff also has helped to coordinate the Community Speakers Series presented by Districts 181 and 86, finding experts to speak to parents about topics important to them and their children.

"I feel like I do have a full-time job volunteering," Boruff said.

Like her mission to nurture the monarch population, it's a job she intends to keep for as long as she can.

- story by Sandy Illian Bosch, photo by Jim Slonoff