The path cuts right through the Dallas area as the much-loved monarch butterfly begins its long journey from North America down to Mexico each year to spend the winter. Actually, the monarch flies through Texas every spring and fall, but it is this weekend that marks the butterflies fall migration through town.
It’s also the annual City of Grand Prairie’s celebration of that flight with a festival called Flight of the Monarch.
Grand Prairie’s Flight of the Monarch event takes place on September 24 at the city’s Central Park. Butterfly releases, kid’s events, live music and arts and crafts are part of the celebration as are the tagging of at least 50 of the 650 butterflies that are being released.
Mae Smith, City of Grand Prairie’s Administrative Supervisor for the Parks, Arts & Recreation Department said the Grand Prairie event began in 2012 and while the city has never been notified of any of the butterflies they have tagged having been found, it’s still worth it each year to bring recognition to the monarch butterflies plight.
It’s a serious plight too because recently, the monarch butterfly population by the time it reaches Mexico, has been reported to have dropped to the lowest level since migration reporting began.
Fortunately, the City of Dallas and a variety of local suburbs take the monarch butterfly migration very seriously. After all, the North American Monarch has been the official state insect since 1985.
Dallas is located on one of the major butterfly highways and the increased habitat loss has many butterfly watchers concerned. Concerned to the point that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings signed a Mayor’s Monarch Pledge with the National Wildlife Federation late last year in order to assure Dallas take the butterfly decline seriously.
Surrounding cities also heard the call and in addition to Grand Prairie’s commitment and upcoming festival, the city of Glenn Heights also pledged to take steps to keep the monarch butterflies healthy while flying through. Glenn Heights’s Mayor Leon Tate read in a proclamation that he encouraged all residents to grow plants that will keep the butterflies healthy.
Adult monarchs need nectar sources while the larvae [caterpillars] need milkweed sources and these sources must be pesticide-free. Milkweed is the only plant the butterflies will lay their eggs, and when the caterpillars hatch, this is their only source of food. Milkweed contains a toxin that monarch caterpillars incorporate into their wings and exoskeletons making them poisonous to predators as adult butterflies.
The City of Cedar Hill’s Dogwood Canyon is doing what it can to keep the monarch butterfly thriving. Julie Collins, Conservation & Operations Manager at Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center said “The decline in Monarchs is multi-fold. In Mexico, it’s decreased overwintering habitat in the Oyamel fir forests. In the U.S. it’s also a decline of habitat including man-made development and agriculture that decreases both adult and larval food sources.”
Dogwood Canyon continually improves its prairie restoration including milkweed plants and the City of Cedar Hill’s Mayor Rob Franke signed a proclamation earlier this year taking part in Rawling’s pledge.
“From my perspective, I joined the Mayors pledge to increase awareness that there are simple things we can do as a community to make our ‘city in a park’ more park-like all the time,” Franke said.
It was only in 1975 that researchers discovered the actual site where the monarch butterflies were wintering. Even so, it has been thousands of years that the North American Monarch has been making its trek through the Dallas area on its way south.
Mayor Franke summed it up well for the entire Dallas area as to the monarch’s annual flight when he said “the more conscience we are of the types of plants and the natural environment in our city the healthier and more active our citizens will become.”