HC residents asked to document Monarch migration
By Martha Richardson Hill Country Alliance
The Monarch butterfly is perhaps the most well-known butterfly species. It might be the first butterfly a person sees or catches as a child, and it's often the first story they hear about how animals migrate.
The migration of the Monarch is one of the most fascinating of the many species who migrate, but especially since not one individual butterfly makes the migration, but a series of generations.
Most persons are probably aware that there is concern among the scientific community about the decline of the Monarch butterfly population. Several factors have contributed to this over the last few years, including loss of habitat in their winter roost in Mexico; severe droughts on their migration route in Texas and other states; and a general decline in native flowers and milkweed, they depend upon for food.
According to Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch, "Development is consuming 6,000 acres a day, a loss of 2.2 million acres per year. Further, the overuse of herbicides along roadsides and elsewhere is turning diverse areas that support Monarchs, pollinators, and other wildlife into grass-filled landscapes that support few species. The adoption of genetically modified soybeans and corn have further reduced monarch habitat.
If these trends continue, Monarchs are certain to decline, threatening the very existence of their magnificent migration."
With this increased pressure on the Monarch population, observations of migration, egg laying and milkweed populations become even more significant in contributing to the scientific knowledge about this species.
Citizens can add to this scientific data by participating in one or more programs. These programs allow a volunteer to record their observations on a website, where, during the fall, the progress of the Monarchs' migration is tracked. One website, Journey North, particularly needs the public's participation.
Residents of the Texas Hill Country are uniquely situated to observe migrating Monarchs. Lying squarely in the path of the Central Flyway migration route, the streams and river systems provide reliable nectar sources and shelter that the butterflies depend upon.
It is fun and rewarding to be a part of this effort and see how posting your observations become part of the record of this year's migration. In addition to sightings of individual butterflies, a truly thrilling occurrence is finding a roost where Monarchs cluster overnight on their migration south. Amazingly, they fly in masses to the same roosts, often to the exact same trees. Some Hill Country residents have observed such roosts on their property over the years.
This fall especially, the observation of such roosts and migrating Monarchs is more important than ever. Observers are asked to report roostings with photos if possible.
The migration officially began August 22 in the North. By early November the migration usually is complete, when the Monarchs arrive at their winter roost in Mexico.
To learn more and help in the proper identification of Monarchs, consult these additional resources, http://www.texasbutterflyranch.com, /https://www.facebook.com/texasbutterflyranch and http://www.monarchwatch.org/.