Nature

The Houston Zoo is Helping Cold-Stunned Monarchs and You Can Too

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Possibly one of the most recognizable species of butterfly is the Monarch. And, thanks to its legendary annual migration, we here in Texas get to experience its presence in a beautiful yet subtle way. Traveling close to 3,000 miles each year, searching for a warm place to spend their winters at, Texas is a mid-point on their journey to Mexico. Subsequently, each fall and summer we’re able to witness their journey. When an unexpected cold snap hits our area while on their migratory path, the monarch butterfly population can be adversely affected. This is where the Houston Zoo can help.

In general, if the temperature drops below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, butterflies won’t fly. And, if the mercury drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, they will lose their ability to even crawl. In rare instances where snow has occurred (particularly in their roosting areas), the majority of their population survives due to having or finding forest shelter. Those that aren’t able to have still been known to survive in the snow for a short time, as a result of its natural insulation. However, thriving is another factor altogether, and extremely cold temperatures can be life-threatening to Monarchs.

The Houston Zoo is Helping Cold-Stunned Monarchs and You Can Too

Photo: Pixnio

As the latest cold snap hit the City of Houston, all staff at the Houston Zoo were on alert for Monarchs that may be in need of help. If the butterflies are wet, cold temperatures can cause ice crystals to form on their wings. Employees at the Children’s Zoo arranged for a butterfly tent to be set up inside the Swap Shop as a form of refuge, and shortly thereafter, information about cold-stunned Monarch butterflies began to trickle in. Zoo guests and staff alike have been bringing butterflies into the Swap Shop for warmth and shelter, and following a little bit of TLC by a team of caretakers, they began warming their bodies by fluttering their wings. The Houston Zoo team will continue the care of these Monarchs until warmer Texas weather returns when they’ll safely release them back into the wild.

The Houston Zoo is Helping Cold-Stunned Monarchs and You Can Too
Photo: Wikimedia

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