Monarch butterflies have begun their 2022 migration, with sightings in San Antonio and South Texas becoming more common each week. Each spring, the iconic orange-and-black insects depart from the Mexican mountains, launching their multi-generation migration from ancestral roosts in the states of Mexico and Michoacán, heading north to Canada in the summer. Their offspring return to the Mexican mountains months later in the fall.
As of Wednesday morning, the citizen science nature site iNaturalist reported 134 observations of monarch butterflies so far in March. Journey North, another citizen science organization that focuses on migrations of monarchs and other creatures, showed 138 monarch sightings in Texas and the southern U.S. as of March 22.
“The mountain laurels are in full bloom in my yard and they’re filled with dancing female monarchs,” said Terry Ybañez Santiago of San Antonio.
Monarchs frequented Texas Mountain laurels along the San Antonio River downtown this week. Early to bloom, the hearty native evergreen bush emits a grape Kool-aid fragrance and is considered a harbinger of spring in the area. The lush purple blossoms are a favorite of bees and butterflies of all kinds. In much of San Antonio, it joins the Eastern Redbud as one of few flowering plants available this dry, late spring.
Drought looms over this year’s migration, given a lack of rain and a late freeze. Such conditions suggest the butterflies may not find milkweed–the only plant on which they lay eggs–nor nectar required to fuel their growth.
Last week’s Texas drought monitor showed much of the state in severe or extreme drought, which generally does not bode well for wildflowers. In their seasonal wildflower forecast last week, the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin said the 2022 wildflower season “might not be a showstopper.”
“I’m expecting a nice display of wildflowers in Central Texas,” Andrea DeLong-Amaya, the Center’s director of horticulture, stated. “Due to less rain this past fall and winter, the displays will likely be average, but average is still beautiful.”
Cathy Downs, a conservation specialist for Monarch Watch based in Comfort, Texas, saw her first migratory monarch this Wednesday and seconded the motion that this year’s wildflowers might be less than overwhelming.
“We’ve had no measurable rain in many weeks and cold weather, so nectar is reduced to Eastern Redbud and Four Nerve Daisy,” said Downs, adding that her first milkweed emerged last weekend.
Monarchs begin the 2022 season with no news on last year’s population counts. Typically, the Mexican government and the World Wildlife Fund announce the annual population numbers in early March. But this year, an unusual recall referendum for Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has caused the country to endure a process called a revocación de mandato or “revocation of [presidential] mandate,” said Wendy Caldwell, executive director of monarch conservation organization Monarch Joint Venture.
“We’ve been told (informally) that as a result of this process, there is a pause on many official communication channels connected to the government, including the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), which is involved in monarch conservation in Mexico,” said Caldwell. While the presidential recall is not a common occurrence, the limited government communications during Mexico’s election season is common practice. “So the timing of this just happens to overlap when monarch numbers would typically be released – many government related communications are halted, not just monarch population information,” she said.
TOP PHOTO: Monarch butterflies lilt on Texas Mountain Laurel along the San Antonio River on March 21, 2022. Photo by Monika Maeckle
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Saw a half dozen monarchs on mountain laurels in Travis Heights in Austin this morning! Beautiful!
Last year at this time I had at least a dozen caterpillars in the small amount of milkweed on my property. This year I had one, count ’em, one, and that’s with at least three times the amount of milkweed this year. Either their ability to find milkweed has diminished, there’s fewer of them or they decided to bypass my neighborhood.
Wednesday June 8,2022
I had one monarch caterpillar in early April… just one…
I have tons of milkweed and pollinator plants. But I’m not seeing any monarch butterflies and very few other butterflies… I have not found any eggs or small caterpillars since the one lone one….. is this true all over San Antonio Texas? We are having extreme heat right now and no rain…..
Same! Last year I released over 100 monarchs. This year I have only had 6 since March. I also have tons of milkweed. What’s happening?
Janesville wi have two caterpillars today June 18th if milkweed pops up in our yard we let it grow and watch for eggs. Last year first eggs were on may 12th.
Actually saw my first Monarch today June 19th. Appeared to be laying eggs on our milkweed. Yaaaa
June 22 in Mokena, Il and still waiting for first Monarchs and eggs. They’ve come every year but typically a few weeks sooner. Also haven’t seen the ants, spiders, earwigs and other insects that are usually here by this time. My milkweeds are tall and healthy. Hoping Monarchs don’t skip me this year!
I’m worried! This time last year I had eggs hatching on my milkweed. Today I see nothing and haven’t seen a monarch in weeks.
Our milkweed is blooming but we’ve seen no monarchs. We have lots of gulf flatteries.
La Grange Pk, Illinois July 11
Finally I have approx. 15 monarch eggs this week in my milkweed garden. Last week there were none. Very late this year! Is it because of drought in Texas? Mexico also?. Pesticides?
A large area of the Midwest and Canada are worried about similar observations.
Troy, IL 8-20-2022 discovered a monarch chrysalis suspended from the bottom back rung of my porch bench. Two monarch caterpillars spotted today munching common milkweed in my garden
There are many yellow orange eggs and milkweed insects on the milkweed. How can I deal with them without harming monarchs at any stage.