Characterized with striking black, white and orange markings, the monarch butterfly populates much of North, Central and South America as well as some Pacific Islands, India, Australia and Western Europe. Many Texans may recall the days of seeing monarchs flutter regularly around spring flowers, but those days are harder to come by as the monarch population has declined more than 90% in the past 20 years largely due to habitat alteration and pesticide use. The milkweed plant is crucial to the species’ survival; it is the only plant monarchs consume as caterpillars, thus creating a very small ecological niche necessary for egg development and larvae sustainability. Common pesticides and industrial growth have nearly depleted milkweed plants. Monarchs are one of the only migrating butterflies, traveling more than 2,000 miles from Mexico to Canada. The butterfly funnels through Texas in both the fall and the spring. Early November, a super generation of monarchs arrive at their overwintering grounds in the mountains of Mexico. This generation lives 8 months, completes the entire fall migration, hibernates in Mexico, and begins the spring migration, stopping to breed in the Southern United States. Monarch butterflies migrating north live only 6 to 8 weeks and it takes four generations to complete the spring migration.
The Fort Worth Zoo continues to monitor and plant host plants to aid the state insect of Texas during their migrations through north Texas. Two new prairie restoration sites are located near the main parking lot of the Zoo where guests can view pollinators and native plants. The Zoo has also restored an area along the Trinity river, near the Trinity Railroad tracks. Privet and other invasive, nonnative plants were removed, and then the area seeded with native flowers and other plants to allow for healthier habitat to grow for native pollinators and other species.
There are many ways you can contribute to the longevity of this species and make a difference. Planting native wildflowers and leaving designated areas of your yard “ungroomed” will attract pollinators and including milkweed in your garden can encourage monarch reproduction. For more ways to get involved in Fort Worth, visit The Mayor’s Monarch Pledge.
Would you like to support the Zoo with a Pollinator Adoption? Click here.
Learn about seven things you can do for pollinators here.