The seventh annual Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival launched at Brackenridge Park on October 8, with thousands of butterfly and pollinator fans convening to celebrate the storied insects that traverse Texas each fall. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg inaugurated the day with a ride on the San Antonio Zoo’s newly anointed Caterpillar Train.
Nirenberg encouraged festival goers to have a great time, but reminded them to “learn about the important part these critters play in our ecosystem,” he said. “Remember, changes at a local level can have a big impact.”
This was the second festival for Juliette Montoya and her daughters Arlo and Ada. Her family left the park with a free mountain laurel tree and native milkweed plant, courtesy of the San Antonio Parks Department and San Antonio Water Systems’ tree and plant adoption events.
“It was awesome,” said Montoya, noting that the Monarch Butterfly Obstacle Course organized by Blooming with Birdie and which occupied much of the Pecan Grove at Brackenridge, was “the most amazing activity for kids–so interactive, smiles all around.”
“And then we got to tag and release a monarch butterfly,” said Montoya. “That was the coolest part of all. It was extra special to have it pause on Arlo’s finger. Like birthday, Christmas and Fourth of July all in one.”
More than 400 monarch butterflies were tagged for Monarch Watch. The citizen science initiative helps scientists track the migration by having volunteers adhere a small, round sticker with a letter/number code to the discal cell of the butterfly’s wing. The date, time place and sex of the butterfly is recorded and then sent to Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. The butterflies continue their journey to Mexico and when they die, are recovered from the forest floor and their tag numbers are reported. Monarch Watch announces a recovery list each spring.
This year’s Festival included more than 30 education partners offering an array of educational activities and takeaways. Native seed packets, butterfly tattoos, pollinator plants, gardening wisdom and arts and crafts contributed to the mix of family friendly fun.
Community partners of the Festival, the mission-aligned organizations that donate their time and effort to offer educational programming, seemed pleased with the new venue.
“I feel it’s the perfect roost–community, education, family fun, and natural habitat,” said Drake White, the Festival’s chief tagging docent and owner of the Nectar Bar.
“We were never overwhelmed and had a constant stream of families with children and people seemed really engaged,” said Lee Marlowe, president of the Native Plant Society of San Antonio.
San Antonio’s Parks Department offered 1,750 native milkweed plants for adoption and made 975 free trees available. SAWS made 918 native Salvias available for adoption.
More than 600 people signed up for the Forever Journey, whereby they submit the name of someone who died to be assigned to a tagged monarch. San Antonio artist Terry Ybañez constructed a seven-foot tall altar bearing the Virgen de Guadalupe. The altar, installed on a cypress-tree lined island near the Pecan Grove, honored victims of the Robb Elementary school shooting in Uvalde that occurred on May 24. The names of the 19 children and two teachers who were massacred that day were inscribed on its trunk.
Linda Sierra of San Antonio arrived at the Festival with the goal of tagging a butterfly in honor of her husband Roland. Sierra had submitted her husband’s name to the Forever Journey last year and was pleasantly surprised when she received a call from the Texas Butterfly Ranch alerting her that her husband’s butterfly had made it to Mexico and been recovered in the Mexican mountains.
“I tagged a butterfly in honor of my husband, Roland Sierra,” said his widow Linda. When Sierra received news that her husband’s butterfly had made it, “I cried, I was excited, I was happy…I knew it was my husband reaching out to me.”
To date, five butterflies associated with the Forever Journey campaign have been recovered and reported.
TOP PHOTO: Tagged monarch on native milkweed. Photo by Drake White
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- Two monarch butterflies tagged on the Llano River in honor of lost loved ones recovered
- Forever Journey: honor someone who died by tagging a monarch butterfly in their name
- Caterpillar condos tap monarch butterfly migration for hands-on nature lessons
- On the Llano River in Texas Hill Country, recent rains bode well for monarch butterfly migration
- Dejavu: is 2022’s dry spell setting the stage for another Texas drought like 2011?
- Save the date: Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival finds new roost at Brackenridge Park
- Three monarch butterflies tagged in honor of those who died recovered in Mexico
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It was FABULOUS! Even for us “more mature kids” : ) I have been learning so much on our Pollinators, especially the monarchs, and that my little Monarch Crossings will help them as the gardens grow. Really looking forward to next year!
Thank you for your posts about the Monarchs! These wonderful creatures , tagged or untagged, willingly carry
our prayers. When I see them, I say a silent prayer of gratitude.
Very small monarch butterfly showing up on my ranch in Lexington! Are these possibly babies? I am a very new person to the group and would love to be told where I can get and to my questions on the butterfly’s comming to my home.
Thank you ,