Save the date: Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival in San Antonio Oct. 20-22

Mark your calendars, butterfly and pollinator fans. San Antonio’s Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival at Pearl will take place October 20 – 22 this fall during peak Monarch butterfly migration week. Join us for three fun days of events to celebrate the majesty and magic of Monarch butterflies and other pollinators.butterflyfest_wordpressThursday, Oct. 20th, 6 PM – 8 PM: Buen Viaje, Mariposa Monarca! at the Instituto Cultural Mexicano in HemisFair Park. FREE ADMISSION. Mexican artist Ignacio Arcas presents “Buen Viaje, Mariposa Monarca!,” a nature photography exhibit of Monarchs’ roosting sites in Michoacán, Mexico. Arcas will be present to discuss his artwork, and Mexican forester and symposium panelist Dr. Cuauhtémoc Saenz Romero from Michoacán will join us to chat with the audience about the Monarch migration.  

Silk scarves by Piñeda- Covalent. Courtesy photo.Textile designer Pineda-Covalín will present a collection of their Monarch butterfly inspired wares, and an installation by artist David J. Romero replicating the Monarch butterfly roosting sites will welcome guests to the Instituto.

Sponsored by the Instituto Cultural Mexicano and Texas Butterfly Ranch


Friday, October 21st, 6 PM – 8 PM: Climate Change and the Monarch Butterfly Migration Symposium at the Pearl Studio. $10; LIMITED SEATING. Tickets are now on sale here.

Dan Goodgame, VP of Corporate Communications for Rackspace, will moderate a timely discussion with the distinguished panelists listed below.

Dr. Cuauhtémoc Saenz Romero

Dr. Cuauhtémoc Saenz Romero, a forester from Michoacán, Mexico, who proposes moving the Monarchs’ roosting sites higher up the mountain to save them from the impacts of climate change.



Catalina Trail, then known as Cathy Aguado, was the woman on the cover of National Geographic in 1976.Catalina Trail “discovered” the Monarch roosting sites in Michoacán, Mexico after years of searching as a citizen scientist. Trail, from Morelia, graced the cover of National Geographic Magazine in 1976 as a 25-year-old mexicana. She and her then husband Kenneth Brugger led scientists to the site where the Monarchs roost, and the news rocked the butterfly world. She currently lives in Austin.
UPDATE: Catalina Trail will not be able to attend due to health matters. Monika Maeckle, founder of the Texas Butterfly Ranch, will take her place as a panelist at the symposium.



Dr. Katharine Hayhoe is an evangelical Christian, climate change expert, and the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. She holds a Ph.D in atmospheric science and coauthored the book A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions with her husband, Andrew Farley.


cathyCathy Downs, a conservation specialist for Monarch Watch based in Comfort, Texas, teaches hundreds of children and adults each year about the magic and science of the Monarch butterfly migration.




Dan Goodgame, moderator, is vice-president for executive communications at Rackspace, a global leader in cloud computing. A Pulitzer Prize finalist and best-selling author, Goodgame describes himself as a “recovering journalist.” He worked as a top editor at TIME and FORTUNE, a White House correspondent, and a foreign correspondent in the Middle East and Europe.


Sponsored by the Pearl, Trinity University, HEB, San Antonio River Authority, Rivard Report, Hispanic Chamber and Texas Butterfly Ranch.

Saturday, October 22nd, 9 AM – 1 PM: Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival at the Pearl. FREE ADMISSION.

Join us as we honor Monarchs and other pollinators everywhere. The People for Pollinators Parade, lead by San Antonio’s Pedaling Pollinators and Earn-A-Bike Coop, kicks off the festivities at 9:30 AM with custom built bikes that resemble butterflies. COSTUMES ENCOURAGED.

Pedaling Pollinators

The EarnaBike Coop’s Pedaling Pollinators will lead the People for Pollinators Parade. Courtesy photo.

Two Monarch butterfly releases will be held at 10:30AM and 12PM. Throughout the event, butterfly docents will hold demonstrations on How and Why to Tag a Monarch Butterfly.

The Pearl Farmer’s Market will include Monarch- and pollinator-themed food and drinks, Monarch Jeopardy, native plant sales and more.

Sponsored by the Pearl, Trinity University, HEB, San Antonio River Authority, Rivard Report, Hispanic Chamber and Texas Butterfly Ranch

Special thanks to our sponsors and to Mayor Ivy Taylor for signing the National Wildlife Federation Mayor’s Monarch Pledge.




logos_San Antonio

SPONSORSHIPS are still available. Check back here for schedules and updates.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Dr. Saenz Romero was proposing moving the forest 2,000 feet higher in elevation because climate change suggested the forest would not survive within 20 years.

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Viva Fiesta! Vote for your favorite Fiesta San Antonio butterfly medal

Few traditions define San Antonio more than the city’s annual Fiesta celebration. The iconic San Antonio party, Fiesta started in 1891 when a group of lady conservationists organized a single parade with horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and a “battle of flowers” whereby they pelted each other with petals to salute the heroes of the Alamo.

Now, 125 years later, the 10-day celebration includes at least five parades and hundreds of other events over two weekends that generate millions in economic support for local nonprofit organizations as well as a springtime boost to the local economy.  Just like butterflies, Fiesta has evolved.

Kings Party medals

Check out those medals!  San Antonio LOVES its Fiesta medals.  This year, four medals feature butterflies.  Please vote for your favorite, below.  Photo courtesy Rivard Report

One of Fiesta’s most beloved traditions is the sharing and exchange of Fiesta medals.  Each year, businesses, nonprofits and government entities create a Fiesta medal to commemorate that year’s Fiesta.  Some folks collect the keepsake trinkets, stashing them in jewelry boxes and display cases and/or wearing heavy medaled (literally) sashes decorated with the medaled pins.  Several Facebook pages are devoted to the Fiesta medal fascination.

This year, at least four entities have issued Monarch butterfly and mariposa-themed medals. Why?

Because in December, Mayor Ivy Taylor signed the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Mayor’s Monarch Pledge making San Antonio the first and to date, ONLY Monarch Champion city in the country by agreeing to execute all 24 recommendations on the NWF’s action item list.  Ever since, our city has gone a little butterfly crazy.   And that’s a good thing.

Choices choices. Which is your favorite? Vote below. Photo by Monika Maeckle

Choices choices. Which is your favorite? Vote below. Photo by Monika Maeckle

As a result, the Mayor, the San Antonio River Authority, SAWS (San Antonio Water System, the local public water utility) and CPS Energy (the community owned electric and gas utility) all issued 2016 Fiesta medals with butterfly themes.

I’m having a hard time deciding which one is my favorite.  You?

Below are the medals in the order in which I received them, with descriptions.  Please take a look, and after reviewing, vote for your favorite at the end of this post.  Comments welcome.  We’ll share the winner via social media.

1.  Mayor Ivy Taylor’s Fiesta Medal

Mayor Ivy Taylor's Monarch Champion medal

Mayor Ivy Taylor’s 2016 Fiesta medal–Photo by Monika Maeckle

Mayor Taylor graciously handed out these medals to all the volunteers at the San Antonio Zoo’s first annual Monarch butterfly Festival in March.  The medal hangs from a happy aquamarine ribbon and shows the San Antonio skyline hovering over the Mayor’s name.  Below, a Monarch butterfly with wings open rests above the words “Monarch Champion City.”

2.  San Antonio River Authority 2016 Fiesta Medal

The San Antonio River Authority's Fiesta medal

San Antonio River Authority’s 2016 Fiesta medal –Photo by Monika Maeckle

The San Antonio River Authority, a local agency known as SARA, oversees the San Antonio River watershed and the lauded nine-mile riparian restoration known as The Mission Reach.  SARA  issued this Monarch butterfly themed medal, using the Monarch’s iconic orange-and-black color palette with the SARA logo in the center.  The medal hangs from a dramatic black ribbon.

It’s worth noting that SARA also took the Mayor’s Monarch pledge and has planted a LOT of native milkweed and nectar plants along the Mission Reach that moves south from downtown San Antonio, connecting our historic Missions, recently named collectively a world heritage site.  SARA has also maintained a Tropical milkweed patch for years on the San Antonio River Museum Reach north of downtown near the historic Pearl.  The site has become a year-round Monarch butterfly hangout in years that we don’t get a freeze.  The medal reinforces our city’s–and SARA’s–status as a Monarch champion.

3.  CPS Energy’s 2016 Fiesta medal

CPS Energy's 2016 Fiesta medal

CPS Energy’s 2016 Fiesta medal –Photo by Monika Maeckle

CPS Energy, San Antonio’s community owned electric and gas utility, was already planning this colorful addition to the butterfly medal roster when it staged a pollinator patch and pathway at the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas Annual Cookie Rally and Tailgate in January.  The butterfly theme was a great way to tie in their commitment to renewable energy and sustainability.

The medal sports a showy gold lapel-pin topper emblazoned with “CPS Energy” in bold black letters.  A multi-colored ribbon holds a medal on seeded wildflower paper, showing a generic mariposa–the Spanish word for butterfly–lilting above an orange-and-yellow flower.  Hmm, is that milkweed?  Not sure.  NOTE:  I work as a contract communications consultant for CPS Energy.

4.  San Antonio Water System 2016 Fiesta medal

SAWS 2016 Fiesta medal

SAWS 2016 Fiesta medal   –Photo by Monika Maeckle

San Antonio Water System, known locally as SAWS, launched an uber relevant and user-friendly website last year called  The website aims to encourage locals to landscape more appropriately in a world of dramatic climate change and a community with no surface water resources.  Native plant advice, rebates for removing water-guzzling grass–even guidance on pets and plants are included in the educational online resource.

The SAWS medal hangs from a bright aqua ribbon and not only includes a Monarch butterfly, but a fifth instar Monarch caterpillar who appears ready to bust his stripes.  The butterfly floats above a variety of flowers and below the SAWS logo and the name of the landscaping website, GardenStyleSA.

“The message is not subtle,” says Karen Guz, director of conservation for SAWS. “If you want Monarch butterflies, help the caterpillars by planting and sustaining the native milkweed plants.”

Amen, sister.   And Viva Fiesta!

Don’t forget to vote, below.  Just click on your pick, and we’ll share the results.

1.  Mayor Ivy Taylor’s 2016 Fiesta medal

2.  San Antonio River Authority’s 2016 Fiesta medal

3.  CPS Energy’s 2016 Fiesta medal

4.  San Antonio Water System 2016 Fiesta medal

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Tales of a Butterfly Evangelist Shared at Pecha Kucha Night San Antonio

When Vicki Yuan invited me to present on butterflies to the San Antonio chapter of the American Architecture Foundation’s periodic Pecha Kucha Night event, I had no idea what a challenge it would be to frame the amazing story of the Monarch butterfly migration into 20 20-second slides.

That’s right.  Twenty slides, each timed exactly to 20 seconds.  That’s the strict format for Pecha Kucha, a program launched in Tokyo in 2003 for sharing people’s passions by two British architects.    Pecha Kucha means “chit chat” in Japanese.

There’s so much to tell when you’re talking butterflies.  Those who know me can attest to my tendencies to natter on about their charms.  Convey a multi-generation, 3,000-mile migration made by creatures that weigh less than a gram and find their way “home” to a place they’ve never been–all in six minutes, 40 seconds?

If Monarch butterflies can complete such a journey, I should be able to share their story–and my own evolution as a butterfly evangelist–in under seven minutes.  It was a great exercise in expository discipline.  I hope you enjoy it.

For more on Pecha Kucha Night San Antonio, see the Rivard Report’s coverage of the event.

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Austin’s Insecta Fiesta to Host World’s Largest Katydid and Butterfly Flyhouse with 500 Butterflies

Rotten bananas and grape Gatorade for feeding the butterflies?  Check.  Largest Katydid in the world for the insect petting zoo?  Delivered safe and sound.  Cockroach tractor pull assembled and swept?  Done.  Oh, and frozen crickets for the cricket spitting contest?  Almost time to time to thaw them out.

Assembling an Earth Day weekend celebration for the First Annual Insecta Fiesta in Austin has required  thousands of volunteer hours by more than 140 staff and volunteers. Yet final preparations for the daylong celebration of the most diverse species on the planet are almost complete.  The event takes place this Saturday, April 21, 11 AM -4 PM at the Brackenridge Field Labs,  3001 Lake Austin Boulevard.  It’s FREE.

Katydid or Katydidn't?  Insecta Fiesta to feature largest katydid in the world

Katydid or Katydidn't? Insecta Fiesta to feature largest katydid in the world --photo by Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin from Chalakudy, India via Wikimedia Commons

The inaugural bug fest, organized by The Texas Natural Science Center in Austin, will celebrate insects and anticipates a large crowd this Saturday.  More than 150 teachers from all over the state have registered for teacher training to be used in Texas classrooms.   Free parking and shuttle buses have been arranged at the LCRA  lot.  The educational event will feature a live butterfly house, a cricket spitting contest, cockroach races, entomophagy, or the exercise of eating insects for their inexpensive protein, and the largest, loudest Katydid on the planet.  “It’s the size of a small sparrow,” said KUT’s John Aielli when the creature paid a visit to his radio show on Thursday.

Why celebrate insects?

“They’re so under appreciated,” says Dr. John Abbott, Curator of Entomology for the Texas Natural Science Center and a chief organizer of the event.  “Insects tie all our ecosystems together.  They’re found everywhere, except in the open ocean, in every habitat and microhabitat.   They dominate the planet and they literally tether the ecosystems,”  he says.

And yet given their pervasive presence in our food, water, air and earth, insects have not received their fair share of conservation attention.   Some would argue that if Pandas disappeared, it wouldn’t matter much;  but if certain insects were extinct–bees, for example–the world would be irrevocably changed for the worse.  “It’s more important than ever to understand the impact of climate change and habitat destruction on insects,” says Dr. Abbott.

The Texas Butterfly Ranch is a sponsor of the celebration.  With the help of Flutterby Gardens of Manatee and funding from Austin’s Peggy and Matt Winkler, we’ll help supply butterflies for a butterfly house that will include 500 live lepidoptera.

Cricket spitting, a questionable competition in which one inserts a cricket in mouth and then spits it out, will also be a highlight.   The cricket spit the furthest wins the competition.  The “sport” has been popularized by Purdue University’s annual indoor Bug Bowl with a record of 32 feet.  Since the Insecta Fiesta contest will be the first OUTDOOR cricket spitting contest, whoever wins the competition can claim to set a new Guinness Book of World Record.

Other insect activities:

  • Insect Petting  Zoo 
  • Insect Cooking/Eating Tent  
  • Live Insect-Themed Music  
  • Cricketspitting Contest  
  • Cockroach Races 
  • Butterfly Garden/Flyhouse
  • Insect Safari
  • Austin Bike Zoo
  • Insect Workshops for Teachers to earn CPEs
  • Pond Dipping
  • Forensic Entomology
  • Arts/Crafts

The free K–12 teacher training workshop offers six hours CPE credit and curriculum materials correlated to the Science TEKS. Teachers will learn how to use insects to teach about animal adaptations, ecosystems, evolution, and more.   Register for the workshop here. Contact Christina Cid with questions about the teacher training.

Insecta Fiesta this Saturday 11-4 at Brackenridge Field Labs

Insecta Fiesta this Saturday 11-4 at Brackenridge Field Labs in Austin

WHAT:         Insecta Fiesta

WHEN:         Saturday, April 21, 11 AM – 5 PM.  FREE.

WHERE:       Lake Austin Center – Brackenridge Field Lab 3001 Lake Austin Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78703
PARKING:  Free at the LCRA lot, with shuttles to entrance

Hope to see you there!

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Park Openings, Caterpillar Crawls, Butterfly Bookreadings: Busy Weekend For Butterfly Buffs in San Antonio and Austin

This weekend brings a slew of butterfly related events for the novice lepidopterist and butterfly gardeners.

Saturday we’ll be at the Grand Reopening of Phil Hardberger Park in San Antonio. Opened a year ago, the 311-acre natural area is a testament to the vision of Mayor Phil Hardberger, who saw the project to fruition despite a serious recession.

This weekend, the $3 million second phase of transforming the former Voelcker Ranch into our newest natural area will be introduced to the public.  A ribbon cutting will be staged at 10 AM, followed by Dinosaur George, then a full program with nature walks, kite-making and flying, children’s basketball competitions, parachute games, Frisbee tosses and more.  The San Antonio Zoo, Texas Master Naturalists, Medina River Natural Area, Mitchell Lake Audubon Center, the Native Plant Society, and Texas Butterfly Ranch will join a crew of 14 total to host educational table displays.  I’ll be on hand with a selection of caterpillars, chrysalises and host plants, so please stop by and say hello.

Butterfly gardens are in the plans for Hardberger Park, but park construction temporarily “sidetracked plans to have them ready,” said Gail Gallegos, Nature Preserve Officer for the Park.  “The Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy is spearheading and promoting the upcoming butterfly gardens.”

Grand Reopening of  Phil Hardberger Park 
Saturday, May 21, 8 AM – 7 PM
13203 Blanco Road,
San Antonio, TX 78230

Meanwhile, at the Twig Bookshop located at the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio, author Winifred Barnum Newman will read from her crossover book, Caterpillars Can Fly.  The story tells the tale of the metamorphosis of a 15-year-old girl diagnosed early in life with a cognitive learning disability.

The Twig Bookshop Butterfly Book Reading
Saturday, May 21, 10 AM
Winifred Barnum Newman
Caterpillars Can Fly
200 East Grayson at the Pearl Brewery
San Antonio, TX  78215

Up the road in Austin, the Austin Butterfly Forum  will host a guided caterpillar walk for members only on Sunday morning, May 22, 9 AM at Zilker Park near Barton Springs.   Participants are advised to walk past the pool, to the Barton Springs trailhead.  Here’s a map.

Renown caterpillar expert Dr. David Wagner, Ph.D, author of the definitive field guide to Caterpillars of Eastern North America, has a reputation as a passionate and engaging speaker.   He will lead this guided tour for  Austin Butterfly Forum members only, showing us how to find, identify, collect and understand the oft-underestimated caterpillar, which is frequently the most entertaining phase of the butterfly life cycle.  (If you don’t believe me, check out the video above.)

Still not a member of the Austin Butterfly Forum?  Maybe now’s a good time to join. Annual membership is $20 per family membership and provides access to exclusive outings like this.

Austin Butterfly Forum
Sunday, May 22 9 AM
Guided Caterpillar Tour at Barton Springs Trail 
Dr. David Wagner, PhD and author of  
Caterpillars of Eastern North America
Loop 36o Trail Access
Barton Creek Greenbelt
Austin, TX  78704

Dr. Wagner then makes himself available in Austin on Monday, May 23,  when he speaks to the Forum in the  Zilker Botanical Garden Center.  The meeting is free to members, $5 for nonmembers. Dr. Wagner spoke previously to the Forum in 2008. “Dr. Wagner’s brilliance and intense knowledge of one of the dominant life forms on the planet is reason enough to attend,” notes Mike Quinn, president of the ABF.

Austin Butterfly Forum
Monday, May 23, 7 PM
Caterpillar Talk  
Dr. David Wagner, PhD and author of  
Caterpillars of Eastern North American
Zilker Garden
2220 Barton Springs Road
Austin, TX  78746

And if that’s not enough flutter action to get you out of the house, Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times best selling author of The Butterfly’s Daughter, will speak at Book People in Austin on Sunday at 3 PM.  Monroe’s book weaves a tale of transformation that spans multiple generations of women.  Luz Avila, the main character, sets out on a voyage of self discovery, with the magic of the Monarch butterfly migration laced into the narrative.  The book is set in San Antonio.

Book People Butterfly Book Reading
Sunday, May 22, 3 PM
The Butterfly’s Daughter
Mary Alice Monroe

Amazon reviewers all gave it four or five stars.  Check back here for a review of the book later this month.    

UPDATE 5/20/2011–The location of the Guided Caterpillar Tour for Austin Butterfly Forum members was mistakenly identified in this blogpost.  It has been corrected.    ABF members should goto the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Loop 360 Trail Access. See you there!