The third annual Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival, three-days of science, art, education and celebration, will take place October 19 -21 in San Antonio at the Pearl.

The mission of the Festival is to raise awareness and appreciation of insect pollinators and other wildlife that make one of every three bites of our food possible. It unfolds during peak monarch migration season in the nation’s first Monarch Butterfly Champion City, so declared by the National Wildlife Federation in 2015. Late October typically includes the passage of millions of monarch butterflies through the Texas Funnel on their epic journey to the Mexican mountains where they roost for the winter.

Learn to tag monarch butterflies at the 2018 Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival. Photo by Scott Ball

A timely forum, Butterflies without Borders: the Monarch Migration and our Changing Climate will launch the Festival this year.

The luncheon panel staged in partnership with local independent news site, the Rivard Report, will kick off the Festival on Friday, October 19, and serve as a tandem fundraiser. Monies raised through the luncheon will help underwrite enviornmental journalism at San Antonio’s favorite local independent news website and also defray costs associated with keeping our Festival FREE to the public.

The panel includes monarch butterfly expert and director of the Arboretum in Madison, Wisconsin, Karen Oberhauser; forest ecologist and National Wildlife Federation monarch outreach coordinator Rebeca Quiñonez Piñon; executive director of the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, Mariana Treviño Wright, who also happens to be a litigant in the border wall dispute with the Trump Administration; and, advocate journalist Carey Gillam, who has tackled the agrichemical industry in her recent book, Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science.

Award-winning editor/journalist Robert Rivard, cofounder of the Rivard Report, will moderate the discussion, which will take place just three weeks before our sure-to-be-historic midterm elections. Tickets and more information on the Forum available here.

Special thanks to The Pearl, HEB, San Antonio River Authority, the John and Florence Newman Foundation and the Rivard Report for their support as Keystone Sponsors and making the third annual Festival possible.

Migration map

The eastern population of Monarch butterflies will be moving through San Antonio in late October during peak migration as they make their way to Mexico to roost for the winter. Graphic by Nicolas Rivard

This year, the Festival expands its celebration beyond monarch butterflies to include other wildlife pollinators.

On Friday evening, bats are on the schedule. A gathering at Confluence park will feature a Mezcal tasting (made possible by bats, which pollinate the cactus that makes Mezcal and tequila happen). An educational talk by Bat Conservation International‘s Fran Hutchins will accompany a photography show of wildlife pollinators sponsored by Mexico’s Commission on National Biodiversity.

Bats join the Festival this year. Here, a Mexican free-tailed bat. Photo via Texas Parks and Wildlife

On Saturday, teachers can participate in training to utilize monarch butterflies as school curriculum. A bug lunch at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens will be an exercise in entomophagy (the eating of insects as food and feed). All weekend long, an art show focused on monarch butterflies will be on display at the Southwest School of Art.

The actual Festival takes place on Sunday. Festivities begin at 10 AM with the People for Pollinators Parade. Festival goers are encouraged to “get their wings on” for an informal, organic procession through the Pearl, accompanied by a drum line and Festival emcee Adam Tudor.

Hundreds of tagged Monarch butterflies will be tagged and released by trained docents led by Drake White of the Nectar Bar. The docents will fan out into the crowd to educate Festival-goers on why and how we tag Monarch butterflies. At noon, tagged monarch butterflies will be released from a Mariposa Pyramid in Pearl Park to join their butterfly brethren on the journey to Mexico. Last year, five of the butterflies released at our Festival made it to Mexico to be recovered on the forest floor in El Rosario monarch sanctuary.

Festival 2017: Hundreds of monarch butterflies, about 10,000 people, loads of fun, education, science, art and celebration.

More than 20 members of our unofficial Pollinator Posse, myriad educational partners, will offer engaging activities at the Pearl while the Sunday Farmer’s Market takes place. SAWS will host a Butterfly Landscaping Workshop at the Pearl Studio. The Festival and almost all events on Sunday are FREE and open to the public.

For those unaware, millions of Monarch butterflies leave the Mexican mountains each spring and head north in a unique multigeneration migration. Taking their cues from the sun, they rouse themselves from a semi-hibernative state, mate and head north in search of milkweed on which to lay their eggs. Then they die.

Five monarch butterflies tagged at our at our 2017 Festival, were recovered at the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Preserve near Angangueyo, Mexico in early 2018.

The eggs hatch into caterpillars and later morph into adult butterflies which produce subsequent generations over the summer. Those butterflies continue north, following the milkweed, all the way to southern Canada.

Each butterfly only lives about a month, until fall when a “super generation” of Monarchs suspends reproduction to head south and migrate thousands of miles “home” to the Mexican forest where they roost until spring and start the cycle anew. Each fall, the migrating Monarchs pass through San Antonio and the “Texas Funnel” in late October–just in time for our Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival.

Our Festival deliberately coincides with the Monarchs’ arrival in our part of the world. Come join us as we wish them safe travels south.

Follow schedule updates on our Festival page.

Special thanks to our Keystone Sponsors for making this year’s Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival possible!

Sponsorship opportunities still available.  

Related posts:

Like what you’re reading? Don’t miss a single post from the Texas Butterfly Ranch. Sign up for email delivery, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter, @monikam.