Since 1990, nearly 1 billion monarchs have perished accounting for about 90 percent population decline. Like bees, monarchs are essential for pollination and like the bees, have fallen victim to excessive herbicide use on their lifeblood, the milkweed plant. Once flying by the billions over the United States between Mexico and Canada, only about 30 million remain.
This grim state of the monarch population has ignited the Obama administration to take action as part of his “National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.” The administration has “recently introduced a plan to restore the monarch butterflies’ habitat and increase their population by 225 million. The centerpiece of the plan is a “flyway” along Interstate 35, which stretches from Texas to Minnesota. The plan calls for turning federally owned land along the interstate corridor into milkweed refuges for the butterflies” (Whelan, 2015). Environmental groups all over the country have been banding together to help with the conservation efforts, including Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas.
Texas provides critical habitat on the primary migration pathway of Monarchs to and from their wintering grounds in Mexico. The availability of native milkweed host plants, essential to assure successive generations continuing north, has declined in Texas. Herbicide resistant crops, mowing of roadsides, parks and open areas and continued drought have all had an impact on the number of Monarchs surviving the southern journey to Mexico.
Overwintering resources for Monarch butterflies are also diminishing. Shelter and water needed by the overwintering butterflies are declining in Mexico and illegal logging has already eliminated a number of former colony sites. Continued thinning of the forests and outright deforestation reduces the availability of water for both the butterflies and the people.
Wednesday, June 10th at St. George’s Episcopal church in Canyon, Texas Cathy Downs and the Texas Panhandle Audubon Society invites the people of the Llano Estacado to a Monarch Workshop to come together to help reverse the damage. Cathy, a Texas Master Naturalist with the Hill Country Chapter, was born and raised in New England and retired to Comfort, TX in 2004 from a 30 year career owning and operating her own retail businesses. She is a Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist with Monarch Watch, currently chairs the Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas (BBMT) program for Native Plant Society of Texas and is a certified Monarch Larval Monitoring Project educator. Cathy raises caterpillars for education as well as propagating native milkweeds. She hosts workshops and live Butterfly Pavilions for Texas Master Naturalist Chapters, Native Plant Society of Texas Chapters, Garden Clubs, Nature Centers, State Parks and elsewhere throughout Texas.
The workshop will cover:
- Monarch anatomy, biology, and life cycle. Live specimens will be used wherever available.
- Migration decline and the reasons for the habitat decimation.
- How to identify several local native milkweeds and talk about the importance of native and non-systemically treated milkweeds in the Monarch habitat and why that is crucial to Monarch survival.
- Identify native nectar plants and the importance of fall blooming plants to increase lipid and energy levels for overwintering Monarchs.
- Resources, seeds and handouts, and a Q&A.
The Texas Panhandle Audubon Society will be raffling off milkweed plants for home gardeners and hosting a silent auction. All proceeds from the auction benefit Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas. So, join us and take part in brining back our essential pollinators to the Llano.