October marks the peak of the monarch migration southward through Texas and on to Mexico for the winter. There are several ways you can help them along their journey.
Texas is known for its wide open spaces, diverse ecosystems, wildflowers and wildlife. And the wildlife can range from the largest mammal to the smallest insect. In fact, the most famous critter of them all is the state insect of Texas: the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).
October marks the peak of the monarch migration southward through Texas and on to Mexico for the winter. Unfortunately in recent years, monarch butterflies have taken a beating. Deforestation in their winter hibernation grounds way up in the mountains near Michoacán Mexico and reduction in wildflowers and milkweeds due to drought have reduced their numbers.
Known as much for their spring and fall migrations as their beauty, monarchs need access to nectar plants and larval food plants in the spring migration northward and access to nectar plants during the fall migration in order for survival and reproduction.
What can you do to help the monarch butterflies?
- Plant native milkweeds such as antelope horns or swamp milkweed in your landscapes to provide nectar for the adults and food for the developing caterpillars.
- If you purchase milkweeds at a nursery or garden center, make sure they have not been treated with systemic insecticides or the caterpillars will die after feeding on them. Sometimes aphid-infested milkweeds are a good thing!
- Plant nectar plants such as goldenrod, coneflowers, lantana, sunflowers and mistflowers to ensure a source of nutrition and energy for adult monarch butterflies.
- Get involved with a monarch butterfly monitoring, tagging and tracking program in your area.
The Texas Butterfly Ranch is a great local source of information on monarch butterfly news, migrations and monitoring. You can also sign up for their e-newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest monarch news.
For some great pictures of monarch butterflies, milkweeds and their migration pathways, check out our monarch photo gallery!