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Butterfliesbeautiful and fragile
A butterfly is a nectar-feeding insect with two pairs of large, typically colorful wings, not related to moths by having clubbed or dilated antennae, holding their wings erect when at rest, being day-active.
Swallowtails, Sulphurs, Harvesters, Hairstreaks, Monarchs, Fritillary, Emperors, Satyrs
Can you imagine 20000 butterfly species?
That's how many different butterflies exist on Earth.|
Butterfly wings have a very delicate construction, with overlapping microscopic scales resulting in these wonderful special colors and patterns.
About 400 butterfly species call Texas home.
Many butterflies are migratory, what means they travel long distances.
The Texas State butterfly is the Monarch; these butterflies travel over 3000 miles during migration.
Why do we see less Monarch butterflies?
Monarch - Danaus plexippus
Migration route Texas Hill Country
Something went wrong with the Spring monarch migration. Not many of us have caught sight of more than a few of the iconic insects currently on their journey through Texas.
Monarch - danaus plexippus
Butterfly garden at
Bear Springs Blossom Nature Preserve
There are some key culprits of the population collapse of this most recognizable of our butterflies.
Soggy weather and illegal logging have both indisputably reduced the Monarch butterflies at their Mexican over-wintering grounds.
Monarch - danaus plexippus
as butterfly + caterpillar
Not many know that the on-going loss of habitat in the United States, as well as our widespread use of toxic herbicides, pesticides, and use of genetically modified corn, threatens many butterfly species.
Butterflies need milkweed as breeding ground, but humans destroy it. The use of Roundup Ready crops, herbicide-ready crops is contra-productive.
This year, monarchs migration conditions are very hard. The exceptional drought in Texas and northern Mexico is just on their route to the overwintering sites. Monarch have to spend considerable time building up their fat reserves by drinking the sugar-laden nectar from wildflowers.|
Often the landscape in Texas is parched, no wildflowers, no frost-weed blossoms to feed on. Without this food winter survival in Mexico and the migration back into the US the following spring is gravely endangered, many will die of starvation.
Industrial agricultural practices, the eradication of Monarch's primary food source, the milkweed, have eliminated more than 80 million acres of monarch habitat in recent years.
|A map of fall monarch migration|
When the butterflies reach their breeding ground around the Great Lakes region, they will be met with sprawling stands of soy and corn crops. Herbicide-tolerant crops that led to an increase in the amount of toxic spraying that has a very negative impact on monarchs.|
And some of Bt corn varieties are damaging butterflies.
Researchers could prove that monarch larvae fed milkweed leaves dusted with Bt-corn pollen ate less, developed more slowly, and died more frequently than those fed milkweed untainted by the transgenic pollen.
More recent research suggests that not many monarchs are threatened by exposure to Bt-corn pollen, so the total impact is small.
And while Mexico's butterfly reserves and Midwest breeding grounds may feel far from us in South Texas, there is a lot local residents can do to help.
Texas Monarch routes are essential for the northward migration. It is here where the monarchs first rush of egg laying. So the conditions here in Texas play a big role in the success of future monarch generations going north.
The Monarch has recently been added to the World Wildlife Fund's Top Ten Most Threatened Species list and the overwintering population this winter is the lowest ever recorded.
This is a Swallowtail Tiger
as butterfly and caterpillar
Gulf Fritillary - Agraulis vanillae|
Bear Springs Blossom Nature Preserve
|Swallowtail feeding on butterfly bush|
|HELP: Every backyard butterfly garden helps.|
|Gulf Fritillary butterfly seen at Bear Springs Blossom Nature Preserve|
Loosing the pollinator butterfly will endanger many native plants,
endangering the human food supply!|
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