How you can help save the monarch butterfly

By Kelli Nesbitt, Parks & Recreation Marketing Coordinator

In 2016, then-College Station Mayor Nancy Berry proclaimed Jan. 28 as Mayors’ Monarch Pledge Day to raise awareness of the decline of the monarch butterfly and the need for habitat. Mayor Karl Mooney has continued that commitment.

The National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services created the  Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, calling on government leaders to commit to specific actions to help save the threatened butterfly. 

The Parks & Recreation Department responded by collaborating with community partners to plant milkweed and other nectar-producing plants in community and neighborhood parks. College Station now has seven gardens that contain the butterfly’s host plant — Lick Creek Park, Bee Creek Park, Gabbard Park, Veterans Park & Athletic Complex, Richard Carter Park, Stephen C. Beachy Central Park, and the Aggie Field of Honor & Memorial Cemetery. 

Mowing schedules have also been altered to allow milkweed to grow, and milkweed and other plants that benefit pollinators are placed in community and school gardens to educate and engage our citizens.

Monarch Migration

Monarchs travel south each fall to reach warmer climates with abundant food. Most come from Canada and the northern United States and find their way to fir forests high in Central Mexico’s mountains. Over the winter, they roost together in large numbers among the tree branches. 

In the spring, they return to Texas and the southern United States, where they lay eggs on milkweed and die. The young hatch and mature into adult monarchs, then continue northward. 

By September and October, the great-grandchildren — and sometimes great-great-grandchildren — of the monarch that migrated the previous fall arrive back in Canada and the northern United States.

Why Monarchs are at Risk

Monarch populations across North America have dropped by about 90% over the past 20 years because of lost habitat caused by urban development, agricultural practices, mowing and herbicide applications, insecticides, and severe weather events. Mexico’s Commission for National Protected Areas reported last week that the number of monarchs that showed up at their winter resting grounds decreased by about 26% this year.

The butterfly requires two kinds of plants — nectar (food for adult monarchs) and larval (food for caterpillars). Since monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed, females must deposit their eggs on milkweed leaves, or the larvae will starve.

What you can do to help

Throughout March, we’re giving away free bags with information on how you can help save the monarchs. We’re even throwing in activity sheets, Butterfly Retreat seed packets, coloring sheets, and more. 

Bags are available on weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Parks & Recreation Office (1000 Krenek Tap Road) and the Lick Creek Nature Center (13600 Rock Prairie Road). The bags can also be picked up at the nature center from 8 a.m-5 p.m. on Saturday and 1-6 p.m. on Sunday.

If you have a bit of a spare garden space to plant native milkweed and other nectar-producing plants, we encourage you to become part of this worthwhile community effort. You’ll be helping one of nature’s great wonders survive while enjoying a front-row seat to the spectacular metamorphosis and migration.

For more information, visit cstx.gov/Monarchs or email parks@cstx.gov

 


About the Blogger

Kelli Nesbitt (@kneztalk) has served the Parks & Recreation Department for 15 years, the last eight as marketing coordinator. A native of Bryan, Kelli earned a bachelor’s degree in health & kinesiology from Sam Houston State.


 

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