Mayor's Monarch Pledge

Horseshoe Bay is doing its part to assure that the annual migration of monarch butterflies through Central Texas will continue by taking part in the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge.

Through the Pledge, the City’s chief executives commit to doing at least three of 25 actions recommended by the Federation to help the monarch, which has sustained large losses in numbers in the last two decades.

Biologists believe the decline stems from habitat loss and environmental stresses. The stresses include widespread destruction of areas supporting milkweed plants, which are vital to monarch reproduction, and development of areas with nectar producing flowers.

Other factors may be logging in the butterfly’s overwintering areas in Mexico, indiscriminate use of pesticides and drought.

Many plants depend on bees, birds, and other creatures such as the monarch for pollination to produce seed. If the monarch disappears an important pollinator will be gone. The Federation believes local governments such as cities and counties can play a vital part in fostering the monarch. Cities, for example, are well positioned to start neighborhood-level efforts to provide habitat or encourage habitat building at homes and businesses. Cities may also be able to educate their residents about the monarch. Mayor Steve Jordan and Sondra Fox, a member of the Highland Lakes Master Naturalists, are leading the Horseshoe Bay effort.

Horseshoe Bay took the first step in the Mayors’ pledge April 21, when Mayor Jordan issued a proclamation to increase awareness about the decline of the monarch and the species habitat needs. The City is following up by taking these steps from the Federation’s actions list:

  • Launching a public communication effort to prompt residents to plant monarch gardens at homes and in their neighborhoods.
  • Communicating with garden organizations and urging them to plant native milkweeds and nectar-producing plants.
  • Conducting meetings of City staff to identify opportunities for revised mowing programs and milkweed and nectar plant planting programs.
  • Planting a monarch-friendly demonstration garden at a prominent location.
  • Adding milkweed and nectar producing plants in community gardens.
  • Changing weed or mowing procedures to allow for native prairie and plant habitats.
  • Encouraging City property managers to consider using nectar plants and native milkweed at City-owned properties when possible.

Much of the effort is designed around the monarch’s migratory and reproductive cycles. The monarch carries out an annual migration from Mexico to areas around the U.S.-Canadian border, and Central Texas lies squarely in the path of a major monarch flyway.

The journey begins each March as they leave wintering sites in Mexico and fly north to Texas and other southern states.

The monarchs lay eggs along the way and the new generations born there continue in a kind of multi-generational relay across the United States to locations in the northern U.S. and southern Canada. The return to Mexico, which involves only one generation of monarchs, begins in August.

Two decades ago more than 1 billion monarchs took part in the journey. The numbers have declined until only about 60 million made the trip in 2014.

The lack of milkweed and nectar plants has been highlighted by the Federation as factors which can be addressed by communities and individuals who want to help out. As monarchs travel through in the spring, they lay eggs but only on milkweed. The butterfly larvae, which are striped yellow, black and white caterpillars, then live off the plants on which they hatched before making a chrysalis and transforming to an adult.

Residents should plant milkweed in the early spring to it will be available during the reproductive period. During the fall return trip, the monarchs do not reproduce, so milkweed is less critical then. However, in the fall gardeners should pay attention to maintaining a strong stock of flowering, nectar producing plants to fuel the monarchs on their marathon flight back to Mexico.

Some of the better fall nectar plants for monarchs are fall aster, gay feather, frost weed, Roosevelt Weed, Texas Lantana, Golden Eye Daisy, Gregg’s Mistflower, zexmania, flame acanthus and White Mistflower.

Residents should also consider curtailing the use of pesticides, and changing mowing methods and schedules to protect monarch-friendly plants.

For information about the efforts in Horseshoe Bay, call David Millegan at 830-598-9973.