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You can help save declining butterfly populations

National Butterfly Center says you can plant native species, stop using insecticides

At the end of 2020, the Xerces Society published a study that said the Western Monarch Butterfly population reached an all-time low.

The study said only about 2,000 butterflies have been seen last year, down from 30,000 just two years ago. The society says effects of climate change, most notably the historic string of wildfires along the Pacific Coast, have been the main force in the destruction of the Western Monarch Butterfly population.

“Butterflies make our world more beautiful. I don’t think anybody can argue with that. But they also make our world livable, and everyone needs to understand that,” Marianna Treviño Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas said.

Here in Texas, we see a large population of Eastern Monarch Butterflies come through the area during spring and fall migrations.

Treviño-Wright said the decline in the monarch butterfly species has not been as bad east of the Rocky Mountains, but there are still threats to the insects. Treviño-Wright said one of the biggest threats is harmful sprays, like mosquito repellent.

”In some places mosquito’s are a problem, well you can apply mosquito repellent to yourself, you don’t need to poison the environment. You can also make contact with your municipality or your county and demand they stop the aerial spraying that many communities do at night,” Treviño-Wright said.

Treviño-Wright also said hotter temperatures and longer droughts are negatively impacting the plants that butterflies need to survive. But, she says there are ways you can help restore butterfly populations in your own backyard, such as planting native species.

”Find out what plants belong where you live, the ones that are designed to live in your soil and your amount of rainfall, and that produce nectar or are host plants for insects,” Treviño-Wright said.

Treviño-Wright said that butterflies love milkweed plants, and there are several native species we can plant here in San Antonio. If you want to plant native species, you can view a list of milkweed plants from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, or a sample planting guide from the National Butterfly Center.

Treviño-Wright said you can create butterfly sanctuaries in your yards or gardens, and help scientists count the number of species that fly through this area every spring and fall. For a guide on how to plant a butterfly-friendly garden, count butterflies and learn about habitat restoration, visit Mission Monarch.

KSAT and the National Butterfly Center want to answer any questions you may have about butterflies in Texas. Follow this link to submit a SAQ and we will work to get them answered.

SAQ: Your San Antonio Questions Answered (KSAT)

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