As the warmth of another fleeting Texas spring breathes new life into the natural world around us, one of nature’s most magical events unfolds—the spring migration of monarch butterflies. Each year, our official Texas state insect embarks on a remarkable journey, traveling thousands of miles from their wintering grounds in Mexico to their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada. Texas plays a crucial role in this annual migration, serving as a vital corridor for monarchs as they journey northward. As gardeners and property owners, we have a unique opportunity to support and protect these iconic butterflies as they pass through our landscapes.

The monarch migration is a marvel of nature, with millions of butterflies traveling thousands of miles across North America. In the spring, monarchs begin their northward journey, guided by instinct and environmental cues. Texas serves as a critical stopover point for migrating monarchs, providing essential nectar sources along with native milkweeds for their next generation.

Gardeners and landowners can play a vital role in supporting monarch butterflies by creating monarch-friendly habitats on their properties. Planting nectar-rich flowers, such as azaleas, butterfly bush, mealy blue sage, lantana, narcissus, pentas, phlox, sunflowers, verbena, and zinnias provide essential food sources for migrating monarchs. Protecting and not mowing wildflowers on your property and roadside is also essential to their journey. Afterall, these are the native flowers that their annual spring journey evolved with. Monarchs frequently nectar on “weeds” such as clover, dandelions, and thistles as well.

Milkweeds are the primary host plant for monarch butterflies, serving as the exclusive food source for their caterpillars. By planting and preserving native milkweed species, such as green milkweed (Asclepias viridis) and butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), we can provide vital breeding habitat for monarchs and support their lifecycle. East Texas is home to at least half a dozen other native Asclepias as well, with all proving vital. Proving its critical evolutionary role to the monarch population, Texas boasts thirty-six species of native milkweeds. Monarchs from Mexico come to Texas to eat, breed, and die making native milkweeds the key to the rest of the trip.

To protect monarch butterflies and other pollinators, gardeners should avoid using insecticides and herbicides in their gardens when possible as they can be harmful to the butterflies, their host plants, and their nectar plants.

It is our ethical duty as gardeners and Texans to help this paper-thin butterfly which has declined by 80% in the last 20 years. It is obvious what we need to do: avoid spring mowing, plant and nurture as many flowers as possible, reduce pesticide use, and preserve all native milkweeds. We will talk more about the struggles of our state insect in the fall when the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the monarcas milagro make their way back home to Mexico.