Want to Meet the Beetles? Better Hurry, Removal of Milkweed Beetles from San Antonio River’s Milkweed Patch Imminent

An invasion of red-and-black milkweed beetles have made a temporary eyesore of the San Antonio River’s celebrated Milkweed Patch on the Museum Reach.  The striking insects, whose colorful torsos suggest the patterns of a tiki mask, have moved into the 1200-square foot Tropical milkweed garden on the banks of the San Antonio River just south of the Pearl Brewery  in a classic play of nature’s cycles.

Milkweed Beetles have taken over the Milkweed Patch

Milkweed Beetles have taken over the Milkweed Patch

The beetles, which look like ladybugs on steroids, don’t bite, sting or carry diseases. They do, however, defoliate milkweed plants, and have left the highly trafficked stretch of the River with some unattractive bald spots.

Migrating Monarch butterflies moved through town earlier this spring, laying the first generation of eggs in their annual migration at the Milkweed Patch.  The resulting acrobatic caterpillars occupied the Patch, feasting on milkweed leaves, the Monarch butterfly host plant.  Late straggling Monarchs continue to mingle with our local colony but the pervasive milkweed beetle, Labidomera clivicollis, dominates.

Milkweed Patch going bald thanks to milkweed beetles

Milkweed Patch going bald thanks to milkweed beetles

Volunteers for the Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project (MLMP), a citizen scientist program based at the University of Minnesota and which aims to better understand the Monarch life cycle and migration, have noticed fewer Monarch caterpillars and chrysalises during their weekly observations as beetles consume the milkweed leaves.

Discussions ensued about possibly pruning the milkweeds, which typically die back in winters when a hard freeze occurs.   That didn’t happen this year.  But San Antonio River Authority staff determined a better approach would be to hand-remove the beetles, THEN prune the plants.

Milkweed beetles have defoliated the Milkweed Patch. But aren't they cute?

Milkweed beetles have defoliated the Milkweed Patch. But aren't they cute?

“We believe this to be a holistic management approach with minimal negative impact to the environment that is consistent with our commitment to the local community for the project, ” said Steven Schauer, Manager of External Communications at the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), which oversees maintenance of the area.   The Museum Reach stretch of the San Antonio River was designed as a manicured, urban park setting, unlike the Mission Reach section, which is managed as a native riparian restoration.

SARA deserves praise for working with MLMP  volunteers and resisting the use of pesticides to address the problem.   A round of pesticides would quickly rid the area of

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary, photo courtesy NABA.org

beetles (and other plant pests) and would also jeopardize the Monarchs’ and other butterflies’ continued colonization of the River.  Just north of the Milkweed Patch is a huge Passionflower planting, where Gulf Fritillary butterflies have made their home and are breeding.

If you’d like to “meet the beetles,”  better do so in the next few days.  The critters will be less visible once the hand removal is accomplished.

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Use Twitter Search to Track the Monarch Butterfly Migration in Real Time and Get Live Updates from the Field

I wrote a few weeks ago about using online and social media tools to keep up with Monarch butterfly news. Even more immediate data can be gleaned from Twitter search.

Use Twitter search to track the Monarch migration in real timeFor those unaware, Twitter is a free, real-time search engine, as well as a broadcast outlet for individuals and organizations.  That means you can visit search.twitter.com and punch in “monarch butterflies” or “monarch migration” or “butterfly” and you’ll find hours-old “tweets”–brief 140-character updates–that can be used to track the migration in real time.  Twitter was conceived as a mass text messaging tool, thus the brevity of the updates.  It refreshes constantly, and for Twitter search you don’t even need to have an account.

Unlike Google, Twitter search ONLY indexes recent updates on Twitter, while Google is more of a library* or archive for the entire web.    Think of it as a search engine for public text-like messages with a shelf life of days, maybe weeks.

The results from these searches paint an amazing picture of what’s going on with the Monarch migration NOW.  Yes, there’s junk in there, but also real-time facts.  By clicking on the Twitterer’s profile, you learn their location.  In the case of a “monarch butterfly migration” search, that suggests where Monarch butterflies are flying RIGHT NOW.

Here’s a couple of tweets from today:

  • OurLittleAcre Kylee Baumle: (3 minutes ago) I saw several monarch butterflies flying around the yard today.  Get thee to Mexico!  Winter is coming my friends!
  • emilyyylbs Emily Pounds: (4 hours ago) I’ve seen many #monarchbutterflies lately, it makes my heart smile.
  • mammelton50 Mary Ann Melton (7 hours ago) Seeing solitary monarch butterflies flitting above the highway heading south on their migration.

As mentioned, the person’s Twitter handle (click on the blue hyperlinked text in the tweet) reveals their profile and location.  Those mentioned above hail from Ohio, Texas, and  Hutto, Texas (not everyone names their city).

This is useful info for Monarch butterfly trackers like myself.  Many of us plan “tag team” outings whereby fellow butterfly wranglers gather for a weekend of tagging, doing our part to help track the migration.  Knowing when the Monarchs are coming is helpful, and interesting.

Scientists could conceivably tap this information and map the migration in real-time, making even more use of the power of citizen scientists.  Who will develop an app for that?

Twitter’s not for everyone, but for those interested in clocking the migration in real-time, it can be indispensable.  Check out this Twitter search for Monarch butterflies.

*You can search Google News and get recent articles about the migration, but not updates from individuals.

Texas “hell” for Monarch Butterflies Migrating to Mexico, Says Monarch Watch Founder, Plus: How You Can Help

Monarch Watch founder Dr. Chip Taylor characterized drought-stricken Texas as “1,000 miles of hell” for migrating Monarch butterflies who must funnel through our state to arrive at their ancestral roosts in Michoacan, Mexico.  A glance at the drought monitor map below explains why.

Taylor made the observation in his fall Monarch butterfly population status report
this week in which he predicts the worst migration ever, Monarch numbers in steep decline and speculation that the roosting spots in Mexico will reach historic lows.

Monarch buttefly on hummingbird feeder

Monarch butterflies will have to be resourceful when migrating through drought-stricken Texas this Fall

Dr. Taylor has called Texas the “most important state” in the Monarch migration.  Our state is indeed “the funnel” since Monarchs must fly through our neighborhoods and wildscapes to and from their roosts in Mexico.   Millions of the flying insects pass through in April and October, hugging our Hill Country streams or the humid coastline.   Scientists have expressed concern this year about the interminable drought that has left us parched and relatively nectarless.

With many Texas streams and rivers severely compromised or completely dried up, the usual late season bloomers are absent this fall.  That lack of flowering plants on the Monarchs’ home stretch here in Texas suggests those arriving in Mexico will have lower-than-average fat preserves, the stored energy that sustains them through the winter.

Drought Monitor September 2011

Monarch butterflies will find a red hot zone as they funnel through Texas during their annual Fall migration.

“It will be interesting to see how Monarchs cope with the lack of nectar and water as they move through Texas,” wrote Dr. Taylor.  “Monarchs, like most insects, have hygroreceptors (sense organs that are sensitive to humidity gradients); therefore, when conditions are extremely dry, we might expect them to seek out the darkest and most humid habitats. If this plays out, most Monarchs will accumulate in drainages, along rivers, move in an out of forests, and around other water sources.”

That was the case last weekend on our stretch of the Llano River, sometimes called “the last wild river” in Texas.  The Llano is down, for sure, but running.  A slew of migrating Monarchs nectared on Frostweed, Water Hemlock, Swamp Milkweed, Goldenrod and even Purple Mistflower that bloomed after recent rains.

Taylor cites the widespread adoption of herbicide tolerant crops in the Midwest in recent years, drought and wildfire here in Texas, and continued habitat destruction everywhere as primary threats to the migration.

How can you help?

In an email exchange with Dr. Taylor, he suggested Texans water their lawns lightly early in the morning (only on your designated watering day, of course) IF you have a roost nearby.   Try not to water actual flowers on nectar-providing plants, though, as you’ll wash the precious nectar away;  water the leaves and ground only if possible.

“As to feeders, you could try to scatter Gatorade/JuicyJuice feeders, open (small) cups of applesauce, watermelon slices (at the level of flowerheads) in gardens,” said Dr. Taylor.

You can also plant milkweed in your yard and wildscapes.  Wildflower planting season is coming up quick.  More on that later.

Llano River Rains Make for Nectar Recovery and a Welcoming Stop for Migrating Monarch Butterflies

What a difference an inch of rain makes!   Two weeks ago we described a dreary Llano River scene: receding waters, parched riverbanks, drought-stricken tree roosts, and an absence of nectar that suggested a disappointing forecast for this year’s Monarch butterfly migration.

Monarch butterflies mating

Monarch butterflies mating, taking a break from their "courtship flight" on the Llano River

The drought continues, but we’re more hopeful now.  The Llano River has rebounded with recent rains.   That inch in the rain gauge rewarded us this weekend with plenty of pollinators–bees, wasps, hummingbirds, and butterflies.  Red Admirals, Sulphurs, Fritillaries and Skippers all showed up–and yes, a slew of Monarch butterflies.

With winds out of the south, roosting premigratory Monarchs were trapped on our stretch of river between Mason and Junction, Texas.  They nectared on Frostweed, Swamp Milkweed, Goldenrod and Water Hemlock–the latter their apparent favorite.

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At least 150 Monarchs roosted in the evenings in pecan tree limbs on our riverbottom. During the day, they took turns nectaring and resting on our neighbors’ recently cleared cedar piles.   Mounds of ashe juniper provided a cozy respite from winds gusting to 25 miles per hour.

We witnessed three courtship flights, including the one pictured above.  Male Monarchs typically will seize a female, taking her by force into flight as she literally gets “carried away.”  The mating can last for hours.  We recovered several dozen eggs (now incubating in our kitchen) and tagged 23 Monarchs before sending them on their way to Mexico. Most were in good shape.

The weekend left us hopeful for a more robust migration than this year’s drought and wildfires had us thinking only two weeks ago.

First of Season Monarch Butterflies Vie for Limited Llano River Nectar as Drought Ravages their Traditional Roosts

It was hardly the “pollinator-palooza” we usually witness in September as a few Monarch butterflies and just as few other pollinators competed for limited nectar on the Llano River this weekend.   And so begins the 2011 Monarch butterfly migration, with a whimper instead of the seasonal joyous glee.

Handful of Monarchs on the Llano River

Handful of Monarchs on the Llano River

A handful of Monarchs mingled with dragonflies, occasional bees, and a lonely Eastern Swallowtail as the random skipper lighted on blooming Swamp Milkweed.   September typically boasts an abundance of pollinators, but the drought and rampant wildfires have quashed that hope this season.   Fewer than 10 Monarchs and only a few other airborne nectavores came out to play during a 48-hour Hill Country visit.  The only upside?  No mosquitoes.

Lonely Snow-on-the-Praire pushed its way out of the dust just a few yards from the Llano River bank, as Goldenrod eeked out mild blooms.   Pink Swamp Milkweed hosted loads

Snow on the prairie wildflower on Llano River

Snow-on-the-Prairie eeks life out of the dust

of Monarch eggs from the pre-migatory wave, but the plants measured half their usual size while the river continued its sad recession.   According to the Lower Colorado River Authority, the period from October 2010 to now marks the driest spell on record since record-keeping began in 1895.

A grove of  80-year-old pecan trees, always a favorite Monarch roosting spot, showed serious drought damage, with major limbs fallen to the ground from their own

Monarch butterfly tree roost on Llano River

Cocoa inspects a favorite fallen roost of Monarch Butterflies on the Llano River

dehydrated weight.  October arriving migrant Monarchs always favor these pecans, whose horizontal limbs reached over the Llano, offering safety and humidity.  Even the false willow, a bushy opportunist and reliable nectar source that lines the river bottom, exhibited drought fatigue, with entire bushes a crisp brown only feet from running water.

Reports from our friends at Journey North suggest Monarch roosts have been spotted north of Oklahoma.   Monarch fans on the Monarch Watch Facebook page indicate a healthy population finishing up their reproductive chores further North, with Hurricane Irene providing ample moisture for late season hatches.  They’ll be heading our way soon. The peak migration for our latitude is predicted for October 18 – 24.

Skipper on Swamp Milkweed, Llano River

Skipper on Swamp Milkweed, Llano River

We’ll be as ready as possible, but with little nectar, stunted plants, broken roosts and wildfires raging in every direction, the Texas Hill Country won’t be an inviting stop.

How to Raise Butterflies-to-Be: Rearing Caterpillars the Topic at Monday’s Austin Butterfly Forum

Ever wonder about the best way to raise caterpillars at home for fun?  I do, and experiment all the time–with mixed success.  That’s why I’m so looking forward to the Austin Butterfly Forum’s “How to Raise Caterpillars” meeting on Monday, April 25 at the Zilker Botanical Center.   The show starts at 7 PM and it’s free.

Eastern Swallowtail Caterpillar

Tips for raising Eastern Swallowtails and other caterpillars will be covered at the Austin Butterfly Forum on Monday

San Antonio butterfly lovers, I encourage you to make the drive Monday night.  The chance to learn such esoteric skills directly from passionate butterfly enthusiasts doesn’t happen that often–and it’s free.  Also, it’s a great chance to connect with your community of fellow butterfly enthusiasts.

According to organizer Dan Hardy, several Forum members,  all of whom have years of experience raising caterpillars and hatching butterflies, will lead the session.  You’ll learn:

  • Which butterfly species are best for novices
  • How to trouble shoot illness and disease
  • What kind of gear you need to get started
  • Where to find eggs and caterpillars and how to transport them, plus
  • How to watch for females laying eggs.

“We’ll talk about all the ways caterpillars get into trouble, ” says Dan, a pathologist by training, matter-of-factly. “Problem is, there’s rarely a cure!”

The Austin Butterfly Forum was founded in 1993 and is a nonprofit organization devoted to education and enlightenment about butterflies, with occasional forays into moths.  The membership includes about 50 hobbyists and butterfly gardeners.   Dan says several bonified entomologists participate as well, as do moth lovers.

Sounds like my kind of crowd. Hope to see you there.

PS.  The Austin Butterfly Forum will also hold an all-day workshop on Saturday, May 7 at the same location.  The session runs 10 AM – 4 PM, costs $35, and will offer the basics of butterflying, identification, gardening, and caterpillar rearing tips, as well as a guided walk around Zilker garden.  The fee gets you lunch and set of plants to get started.  For more information, contact Jeff Taylor, 512.825.8368.

Second Annual Native San Antonio Festival to Feature Butterfly Talk on Swallowtails and Monarchs

The San Antonio Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas is staging the second annual Native San Antonio Festival this Saturday, March 26 from 10 – 2 PM at the Land Heritage Institute.

Activities include tree giveaways, a native plant sale, nature and butterfly walks, hay rides, music, Longhorn steers, arts, crafts and family fun.

I’ll be joining several other speakers in a series of programs that explore our native resources.  Here’s the line-up:

11 AM–Curanderismo: Herbs for Healing, Don Jacinto Madrigal and Dr. Elizabeth Portella

Noon–Mission Reach Plants, Lee Marlowe, San Antonio River Authority

12:30 PM–Monarch and Swallowtail Butterflies and Their Plants, Monika Maeckle, www.texasbutterflyranch.com

1 PM–Students Love Natives!, Dave Mathews, Environmental Sciences teacher

1:30 PM–Feral Hog Control, Matt Reidy Texas Parks and Wildlife

The event is free and open to the public.  The Land Heritage Institute is across from the Toyota Plant on the Medina River at 1349 Neal Rd., between Applewhite and Pleasanton Roads.  Hope to see you there.


Happy Spring Equinox! Monarchs en route, and the Eastern Swallowtails are Back, too

The Winter Equinox occurs this Sunday, March 20, and heralds the beginning of butterfly season.   Monarch butterflies are en route from Mexico, with first sightings reported in Texas.   Also fluttering:  gorgeous Eastern Swallowtails, often seen but seldom celebrated.

Perfect Eastern Swallowtail

I’ve written before that Monarchs get all the glory while the less lauded Eastern Swallowtail, a Texas native and almost year-round resident, is treated like a lesser step-sister.   Yet these enormous, dramatic butterflies are easy to attract to your gardens with parsley, fennel, dill and rue–herbs that are easy-to-grow and can double as edible landscape.  In fact, eggs and a first instar caterpillar were spotted on my front yard dill weed just this week.

So why are Eastern Swallowtails so underappreciated?

Those who breed Swallowtails for fun or profit bemoan their unpredictability.   They roam away from the host plant when they’re ready to form their chrysalis,

Eastern Swallowtail egg on Dill Weed

making them difficult to track and enjoy.  They are famously unpredictable in their hatching schedules, eclosing at their own pace, making them tough to breed commercially.

“Swallowtails are very delicate,”  says Dale McClung, of the Florida Butterfly Farm and a member of the International Butterfly Breeders Association. “They are very susceptible to wing damage in flight houses and will lose their tails very quickly from repeated contact with the screening,” McClung says.  He adds that the Eastern Swallowtails’ unique pupae,

Swallowtail Chrysalis

Eastern Swallowtail Chrysalis

which hang at an angle with a saddle stitch, require extra space and effort to cultivate, package and ship for educational exhibits and other exposure opportunities.

Members of the IBBA are largely responsible for raising awareness of butterflies in recent years by supplying them by the thousands to butterfly exhibits at zoos and demonstration gardens, as well as those used in celebratory releases, educational outreach and research.  Challenges raising Swallowtails surely contribute to their lesser popularity, compared to the storied, migrating Monarch, which reproduces like clockwork.

“They are beautiful butterflies. I have raised several species of Swallowtails over the years. They are extra work and expense insofar as space and plant material, so many do not bother with them for releases, but some of us do, ” says McClung.

Swallowtails’ unpredictability can be charming.   When they hatch on their own schedule–sometimes weeks or maybe months after forming their lovely chrysalis–you may come home to a pleasant surprise like the perfect specimen pictured above, which had been overwintering in my office since last October and just decided to eclose this week.

Eastern Swallowtail Caterpillar First instar

Eastern Swallowtails’ charm is also magnified by a clever protectionist tactic:  they disguise themselves as bird droppings in the first instar stage, pictured above, to evade predators. Later, they turn into chubby black-green-and-white striped eating machines often mistaken for Monarchs.

For more on Swallowtails and their host plants, visit this previous post at the Butterfly Beat.

UPDATE:  Dale McClung of Florida Butterfly Farm adds via an email:

“Swallowtails are high flyers and need a large space to roam more naturally. . . . Many swallowtails, unlike monarchs and most other butterflies, do not “land” on flowers when feeding or laying eggs, they gently hover in place while holding position with their feet. Eastern blacks will land, but also will flutter in place as well. During the daylight hours, they are, therefore, in more or less constant motion only stopping when roosting for the night in the wild.”

On the Monarch Butterfly Trail in Mexico: “Explosions,” Joy and “Hasta la vista en Texas!”

Monarch butterflies are on their way to Texas right now. Hopefully we’ll have milkweed for them when they arrive.

My Mexico-savvy husband, Robert Rivard and I visited the oldest and newest sanctuaries of the Monarch butterfly roosts in the Mexican mountains last week in a four-day, back country butterfly sojourn that leapfrogged expectations and surpassed all cliches. Over the years, I had seen videos of cascading Monarch butterflies ending their winter diapause.

in the remote mountain folds of Michoacan, Mexico.   I had also read descriptions of orange butterfly clouds fluttering in blue skies. In 2005,  I made a midwinter visit on horseback through the snow to El Rosario, the first of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Preserve sanctuaries.

That spontaneous trip from San Miguel de Allende to the preserve near Angangueo disappointed.  Snow was falling with temperatures hovering near freezing as we arrived. Tens of thousands of dead Monarchs covered the forest floor. The trip left me depressed about the Monarch population and missing the exuberance described by other sanctuary pilgrims.  The visit was also a stark contrast to what we experience along the Llano River in the autumn when we tag hundreds of Monarchs migrating south from Canada and the American heartland, our small annual contribution to the Monarch Watch butterfly monitoring program.

But this voyage to El Rosario could not have been better.  Our amiable, sure-footed guide, Maria Gloria Cruz-Gonzalez, led us on a 45-minute hike to the ancient oyamel tree forest at almost 10,000 feet.  The first Monarch was spotted only nine minutes into the climb, and butterfly density increased with every step.   An hour-and-a-half into our morning, we witnessed a dramatic stream of Monarchs in the air, and crowding the branches, leaves and trunks of the huge firs.

Soon we found ourselves several yards from one of the oyamel firs, just as the first butterfly “explosion” occurred right in front of us.  That’s what the renowned Monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower called the advent of millions of Monarch butterflies reaching a tipping point as the morning sun warms them. Suddenly, they rise up from their roost in an amazing synchronous flight, filling the skies with a joyous rush. Watch the video above to get an idea.

Bob and I decided we didn’t like the word “explosion” because it was too violent.  Our newfound butterfly friend, Bill Toone of the EcoLife Foundation in San Diego, calls it a “butterfly fall, because they fall off the trees.”   A “butterfly wave” “cloudburst” and “rush” also capture the experience.  Our struggle to find words to explain the sight doesn’t diminish the memory.   We found ourselves laughing giddily and some in the crowd were moved to tears.

I didn’t think it could get any better but the following day we visited Cerro Pelon, or Bald Hill, the newest Monarch butterfly sanctuary. Apart from its massive butterfly appeal, Cerro Pelon, located in the town of Los Macheros, is only a 30-minute drive from the Rancho San Cayetano, the only option in nearby Zitacuaro for those who command sophisticated hotel accommodations after a day on the trail.  Proprietors Pablo and Lisette Span could not have been more hospitable or knowledgeable, and have hosted many amateur and academic lepidopterists over the years.  They have stories. Plus, the food is locally sourced, expertly prepared and served family style in the San Cayetano’s welcoming dining room, where Monarchs make an appearance as art in stained glass windows and woven tapestries.

Cerro Pelon offered a completely different kind of butterfly high. Following our brief drive, we mounted horses for the 90-minute climb up a dust-choked trail, led by local guides who brought us to a beautiful mesa dotted with with cupheas, sage and other dry season survivors.    We reached the top of the mesa, dismounted our horses and descended into the arroyo on foot.  Then the real fun began.

In the sky, on the trees, in the bushes, on the ground–butterflies were ubiquitous, floating, flitting, fleeting in fast-moving orange masses.   Walking along the dry creek, we watched as millions of butterflies rushed ceaselessly in the sun from several oyamel trees, creating a soft-but-steady wing-fluttering soundtrack to the crystal clear day.  They puddled in a dripping spring, lighted on bushes and blooms, gently shoved our faces, and rested on our shoulders and hats.  The sight of such abundant life is jaw dropping, but careful:  you don’t want one in your mouth.

Ultimately, the Monarchs sought out mates in the sky, on the ground, in the bushes, and in the trees.   We witnessed several “courtship flights” whereby the males lift the females from the forest floor and literally carry them away, locked in a butterfly embrace.

Their reproductive mission complete, these same Monarch butterflies will be passing through Texas in the next few weeks.  They’ll make their way to San Antonio, Austin, the Hill Country and beyond.  The females will deposit eggs on our native milkweeds and continue the ancient cycle.

I look forward to seeing them here soon.  Hasta la vista, Monarcas.  See you in Texas.

Monarch Butterflies: Where’s My Milkweed? NPSOT Program to Address Milkweed Shortage Tied to Brutal Winter

Soon Monarch butterflies will be moving through Texas, commencing their multi-generation migration after roosting and resting for the winter in the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico.  Texas is generally the first “rest-stop” on the journey north.  Since

This Antelope Horn milkweed, Asclepias asperula, planted from seed in December 2010 is nowhere near ready to host Monarch butterflies

milkweed is the Monarch butterfly host plant and the only place females lay eggs, we feel obliged to have our gardens well-stocked with the native bloomer in early spring to provide a fitting Lone Star State welcome as they pass through town.

So where’s the milkweed?

Don’t know about you, but my milkweed is way behind schedule.  And I’m not alone.

“I don’t have any milkweed coming up yet,” says Peggy Winkler, an avid Austin butterfly fan and biologist, mother of three, and philanthropist.  Winkler wowed an Austin crowd at a Westcave Preserve/Children in Nature fundraiser last fall by producing 75 Monarch chrysalises for use in table centerpieces.   The chrysalises pupated from caterpillars she raised on Antelope Horn milkweed harvested from her ranch.

“I have quite a few Tropical Milkweed plants in pots (to raise caterpillars on) that I put in my garage when the cold hit, but they look pretty bad,”  she says.  “The temps stayed in the 20’s so long that even inside a closed garage with hardly any windows, they got hit.”

Help is on the way.  Dr. Ridlon “Kip” Kiphart, a retired cardio-vascular surgeon turned Texas Master Naturalist and perhaps one of the region’s most knowledgeable sources on milkweed cultivation, will lead a milkweed workshop next Tuesday, March 1 at 7 PM at the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne.   Kiphart knows his milkweed, thanks to his work as curator of the award-winning Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project at Cibolo Nature Center.  The event is sponsored by the Boerne chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas.

The “Where’s My Milkweed?” session will cover how to create a Monarch Waystation, which is a butterfly garden that features milkweed.   The program launches Boerne NPSOT’s M4M: Milkweed For Monarchs campaign, an offshoot of the University of Kansas and Monarch Watch’s Bring Back The Monarchs milkweed restoration effort, which was announced last fall.

Last year, the Monarch Butterfly was added to the World Wildlife Fund’s Ten Most Threatened Species List because of habitat loss in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. By planting milkweed, we can contribute a milkweed welcome mat here in Texas providing an auspicious start to their long journey, increasing their chances for reproduction, success and a continued migration.

The event is free and open to the public.  Hope to see you there.

Where’s My Milkweed?

featuring Dr. Kip Kiphart

Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project and Cibolo Nature Center                                                                                           Tuesday, March 1, 2011

6:30 socialize, program starts at 7 PM

Cibolo Nature Center

140 City Park Road

Boerne, Texas

If you’re wondering what kind of milkweed to plant, check out the Texas Butterfly Ranch guide to milkweed.