Every October, the City of Grapevine celebrates the Monarch Butterfly migration with its annual "Butterfly Flutterby." The largest migration of Monarchs in a decade are expected to pass through Texas this season on their southward journey to Mexico. Mid-October is when the greatest number of Monarchs pass through North Texas. They will pass this way again in the spring on their way North, some traveling all the way to Canada.
Our Central Role
Texas is an important state in monarch migration because it is situated between the principal breeding grounds in the north and the overwintering areas in Mexico. Monarchs funnel through Texas both in the fall and the spring. During the fall, monarchs use two principal flyways. One traverses Texas in a 300-mile wide path stretching from Wichita Falls to Eagle Pass. Monarchs enter the Texas portion of this flyway during the last days of September. By the third week of October, most have passed through into Mexico. The second flyway is situated along the Texas coast and lasts roughly from the third week of October to the middle of November.
On their way, they fly as high as 10,000 feet, drifting on wind currents and flapping their wings. They can travel up to 3,000 miles per year. No other insect makes such an incredible journey. Scientists are baffled by the Monarch's abilities.
Most adults only live a few weeks. The butterflies arriving in Mexico and California each fall are the great-great-grandchildren of the butterflies that left the previous spring. Yet amazingly, they somehow find their way to the same winter roosts, often to the exact same trees that their ancestors over-wintered in. How do they know where to go? No one knows.
What we do know is that in late summer and early fall, a special generation of Monarchs is born. This elite group is biologically and behaviorally different from those emerging in the spring and summer, living up to 8 months -- long enough to survive through the winter. They roost until spring when they finally mate and lay the eggs of the next generation that will resume the migration.
Making a Comeback
For many years the number of Monarchs was in sharp decline, but now they appear to be making a comeback, thanks to many different groups and individuals who worked hard to restore or create Monarch habitats.
As a homeowner or even an apartment dweller, you can help Monarchs by providing them with the kind of plants they need to sustain themselves on their journey and feed their young. Adults live on nectar from a wide variety of flowers. They love summer annuals like Pentas and Vincas. They also love Lantana and many other spring and summer blooming perennials. But their eggs must be laid on milkweed. No other plant will do. The hatched eggs emerge as caterpillars, which voraciously consume their milkweed home until they are ready to form a coccoon.
Marshall Grain carries various varieties of milkweed as it is available in the springtime. We also specialize in Texas native plants that attract Monarchs and other butterflies and pollinators. Talk with one of our garden specialists to learn more about our native pollinators.