Monarch Butterflies Are Back In Austin – And This Year's Migration Is Larger Than Normal.

Oct 15, 2019

Go outside. Look up. If you're in Central Texas, you're in a hotspot for monarch butterfly watching.

Monarch butterflies are moving south through Austin toward warmer temperatures. And, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildfower Center, this year's population of monarchs is much larger than in years past.

Lee Clippard, the director of communications at the Wildflower Center, started seeing the monarchs stream in Sunday. That timing is ideal, he says, as they are landing on nectar plants that have just began to bloom.

His advice for butterfly watchers: Go outside now.

"How long they're in the area will probably right now depend on the cold fronts that are coming in and what's going on weather-wise over the next couple weeks," Clippard told Texas Standard's Becky Fogel. The timing of this year's migration through Central Texas is pretty average, he said.

It's easier than you think to support monarch butterflies

Monarchs are an imperiled population and, Clippard says, they need all the help they can get. 

He recommends expanding gardens and removing lawn — even starting out with a small corner of your front yard or backyard to set aside for nectar plants or milkweed (only if it's native, though.)

The fruits of your gardening won't necessarily support the monarchs this year, but the plants could help the butterflies returning in the spring and the next fall. Fall is the best time to plant plants in Texas, Clippard says. It's also important to remember that the needs of migrating monarchs vary depending on the season.

Milkweed is helpful in the spring, as it gives monarchs a nest for their eggs, while nectar plants provide energy for both their fall and spring migrations. 

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"If you think about a monarch butterfly ... that may have been flying all the way from Canada. That's made her way here to Texas, and she's flying across your neighborhood and all she sees is green, that looks like a desert," Clippard said. "And if she sees one, happy purple Gregg's mist flower, or fall aster, or Maximilian sunflower growing in your backyard, she's going to find relief."

The wildflower center is having a native plant sale this weekend at 4801 La Crosse Ave., where you can pick up some nectar-rich flowers that could give monarchs some much-needed help on their next migration.