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The drought could influence where monarch butterflies hang out on their migration through Austin

A monarch butterfly in someone's palm
Michael Minasi
Monarch butterflies are heading south through Central Texas for their winter vacation in Mexico.

Monarch butterflies are passing through Central Texas on their fall migration south. But this summer’s drought has made the butterflies' journey harder and may change where you'll see them.

Central Texas "had some really significant drought, not as bad as 2011, but still, the butterflies are going to have trouble getting through Texas,” said Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch, a nonprofit organization that tracks the migration of monarchs.

The butterflies migrate twice each year. In the spring, they leave Mexico, spreading out across the Midwest, North and Northeast. Then, at the start of August, they head back south for the winter.

Monarchs need lots of nectar and water to help them survive their journey, but because of the drought, they’re having trouble finding food.

Taylor said that may influence where the insects congregate on their journey.

“Given how dry it is — most of them are going to be in cities, where people have been watering plants,” he said.

If you notice butterflies in your trees at night, he said, you can water your lawn and the butterflies will drink it overnight to stay charged for their flight.

“I don’t recommend a lot of people water their lawn because [Austin] is in a water shortage,” Taylor said. “Don’t do it if you don’t see butterflies, but if you see masses of butterflies clustered anywhere, water the lawn close by, and the butterflies will come down in the morning to get that moisture.”

Taylor said butterflies tell us a lot about how we deal with and care for our planet and environment.

“We are really the stewards of the planet, and if we are not really good stewards, the population of a lot of things like monarchs is going to go down,” he said. “We have to take care of [Earth] because this planet supports us.”

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