Periodically, I write about a species whose numbers are declining and becoming endangered. The Monarch butterfly, one of the brightest and most beautiful, has joined that list.
Yes, it is only a butterfly, but wouldn’t it be a shame if future generations never get to see it for themselves?
According to an article written in tamuTimes, Monarch numbers have been on the decline for years, up to 30 percent.
It’s no wonder.
In the last three years alone in Texas, we have had drought, unused land plowed and converted for crops and wildfires, which led to the decline of millions of acres of habitat that support the Monarch’s life cycle.
Through research, I learned quite a bit of information about the Monarch’s life cycle, which put things in perspective.
There are Monarch reserves in Mexico, where the butterflies breed and spend the winter. They head to Texas in the spring, stopping to eat and lay eggs, producing Monarch caterpillars.
Eventually, Monarchs make their way to Canada.
Fewer Monarchs are making this journey, which concerns wildlife researchers tracking them.
The World Wildlife Fund is working with professionals and citizen scientists to make changes and create Monarch habitats in hopes of increasing the population.
Continued mowing and use of herbicides has left Monarchs with fewer plants on which to feed and attach their larva.
We can help by planting milkweed and butterfly weed.
According to Texas A&M researcher Craig Wilson, “Milkweed is the key plant because it’s the only plant where the female will lay her eggs.”
I love butterfly weed, and it grows well and reseeds easily. The photo below shows Monarch caterpillars eating butterfly weed.
Two days after this picture was taken, they had completely stripped the plant of all its foliage and moved on to the adjacent plants.
Please consider looking in local nurseries or getting small plants or seeds from a neighbor to do a small part to help save beautiful Monarch butterflies.
Darla Horner Menking is a Texas Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org