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How Texas Could Help Save The Majestic Monarch Butterfly

You may have seen them in your yard…or maybe not. We’re talking about monarch butterflies. There are dramatically fewer of them migrating through Texas.

photo of male and female monarch
male and female monarch

The monarch butterfly with its distinctive orange wings, outlined in black and speckled with white used to be prolific this time of year in Texas. It would migrate through the state on its way from the Midwest and Canada to Mexico.

“Just 10 years ago we’d see millions and millions of butterflies come through our state,” said Carter Smith, director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

But now?

“Really in the last decade or two we’ve seen their populations decline precipitously — really by as much as 80 to 90 percent,” Smith told News 88.7.

Why the decline? Experts blame it on a triple hit.

In the U.S., commercial and agricultural development has destroyed habitat rich in milkweed in which the monarch lay eggs. Add to that extreme drought in the Great Plains where the monarch spends the summer. And third, in Mexico, where the monarch spends the winter in forests of fir trees, portions of those forests are also being destroyed.

“The good news is every single person can play a role here and help create native habitats of all sizes,” said Smith.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is set to give Texas $1 million for conservation projects like encouraging people to increase monarch habitat by planting native milkweed.

photo of Milkweed
Native milkweed in Texas provides monarch with habitat for laying eggs

Why care about the monarch? Like bees they help pollinate plants as they probe for what keeps them flying: nectar. Pollination is crucial to plants including cash crops so Texas official say saving the monarch is good for the economy and the environment.

Later today, former First Lady Laura Bush is scheduled to kick off the Texas monarch project at an event in Dallas.

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Dave Fehling

Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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