Only 1/5 of monarchs moving through Texas

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Nov. 11, 2013 at 5:11 a.m.

Monarch and queen butterflies are seen at the Victoria Educational Garden in Victoria.

Monarch and queen butterflies are seen at the Victoria Educational Garden in Victoria.

Monarch butterflies are migrating through the Crossroads, making their way south to Mexico.

It's an annual trek for the butterflies, which begin their journey from northern Canada in late summer.

But this year, Paul Meredith, a Victoria master naturalist and entomology specialist, said only about one-fifth will arrive at their final destination.

Annually, about 300 million monarchs migrate, making stops in the midwest to mate and lay eggs. The first leg of monarchs die, and the second batch of monarchs finish the journey south.

Meredith said, however, this year only about 60 million are expected to make it.

"There's a major problem with habitat destruction in the midwest, and there's been a drought for two years," he said. "If there's no weeds for them to feed on, they don't eat."

Meredith also mentioned that soybean farmers are killing their natural diet of weeds - or blue mist flowers and milkweed - by using weed killers to maximize plant growth.

"Many people are putting up artificial oases in the midwest to help them leapfrog their way down through the tough areas," Meredith said.

Texas A&M butterfly expert Craig Wilson said another reason the monarch count is low this year is that there was a record low last year of the number of butterflies leaving Mexico.

"I did hear anecdotally that an annual Monarch count this fall at a park in Canada was called off because of low numbers," he said.

The monarchs are currently flitting through the Crossroads and can be spotted near the coast early in the morning and on land during the night.

"We're pleased to see them here breeding," Meredith said. "Don't ask me how they know where to go; they just do."

Meredith said if people are interested in assisting the monarchs continue their journey, they can plant antelope horn milkweed or regular milkweed for the caterpillars to feed on.

"They're voracious eaters; they eat almost 24 hours a day when they're caterpillars. But then two weeks later, the butterflies are up and laying eggs again, and they leave the patches of milkweed," he said.



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