Monarch Butterflies Visit the Texas Hill Country
Monarch butterflies are visiting the Texas Hill Country. When these beautiful creatures take their annual fall flight South to Mexico, they stop for nourishment in the Texas Hill Country. Monarchs have been sighted all around the state. Learner.org reports sightings in Texas Hill Country cities like Austin, Boerne, Llano, Marble Falls, New Braunfels, and San Antonio. Christoval reported sightings in the thousands with lots of the butterflies roosting overnight. You can report sightings at Learner.org.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin reports that the butterflies are refueling at the center in preparation for the journey to Mexico where they will overwinter, like the hummingbirds. The center reports that the monarch population is down from 1 billion to 33 million and a major factor is a decline in growth of nectar-rich plants, such as milkweed along the flight path. Monarchs cannot reproduce without milkweed. Examples of these nectar-rich plants that do well in Texas are the cowpen daisy, milkweed, Fall aster, and goldenrod. The LBJWC website provides a list of recommended plant suppliers.
Those of you who are near the Llano River might be lucky enough to see some monarch butterflies that decided to reproduce locally rather than continue the flight to Mexico, according to the Texas Butterfly Ranch and David Berman, a Ph.D. candidate at Oklahoma State University.
One mystery about the monarch butterfly is how they find overwintering sites each fall. Perhaps they have a built-in GPS? Your guess is as good as mine. Thousands of monarchs are tagged by various researchers every year. However, scientists are baffled by this. Somehow, they find their way. Incidentally, the ones returning this year are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who came through in the spring. Cool, huh?
Monarchs fly thousands of miles each year, so they are always on the lookout for milkweed to lay their eggs on and nectar-rich plants for fuel. We can help these beautiful butterflies out if each of us plants just one of their favorite fall-blooming plants. Again, you can find a list of these plants on the LBJWC website, and don’t forget to stop by the center while you’re in the Texas Hill Country: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Avenue, Austin, Texas or contact them by phone at (512) 232-0100.