Archive for the 'Migration' Category

What Monarchs Need

Thursday, February 8th, 2018
Milkweed for monarchs

Milkweed for monarchs

This is Passport to Texas

Larval monarchs have very specific nutritional needs.

Larval monarchs depend on milkweed species. Essentially, that’s the only plant monarch caterpillars consume.

Ben Hutchins, state invertebrate biologist, says availability of milkweed in Texas is vital to their survival.

As monarchs migrate north from their overwriting grounds in Mexico, Texas is one of their first stops. And this is where they begin to reproduce. And so all of the monarchs that then migrate farther north through the US and Canada, those future generations depend on successful reproduction in the spring here in Texas.

Yet, Texas is just one stop along their migration route.

Monarchs also reproduce and depend on milkweed in the Midwestern states in the united states. And, we know that in many of those states—for example, in the corn belt region—that the availability of milkweed plants has declined substantially over the last several decades. And so, there is some pretty good science that suggests that decline in milkweed availability in the Midwest, directly relates to the monarch population declines that we have seen.

We can all play a part in the monarch’s survival when we plant milkweed and other nectar producing plants.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Citizens Monitor Monarchs

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018
Monarch on milkweed.

Monarch on milkweed.

This is Passport to Texas

Why are monarch butterflies declining?

The current thought is that it is actually several different factors that are contributing to the decline that we’re seeing.

Ben Hutchins is TPW’s invertebrate biologist. Deforestation of their winter roosts in Mexico, cold winters, and prolonged drought along their migration path, has had negative effects.

And then, finally, what this project is addressing is this widespread decline in availability of milkweed plants. That’s due to a couple things: predominantly increased use of certain herbicides.

Texas Milkweeds and Monarchs is a citizen science project where folks keep an eye out for the state’s 37 different species of milkweeds –vital to the monarch’s lifecycle – and then then share observations on iNaturalist.org.

We have experts that are going to be looking at these observations and identifying those.

Hutchins says more than a thousand contributors have logged more than seven thousand observations of all 37 milkweed species. Texas Parks and Wildlife also has guide to Texas milkweeds to help you ID the plants.

It is available online, [with] pictures of all of the different species of milkweeds, distribution maps—to let you know if you’re in the right part of the state—and also some of the key characteristics.

Find it on the Nature Trackers page of the Texas Parks and Wildlifewebsite.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Managing for Monarchs

Monday, January 22nd, 2018
Monarchs at their overwintering site in Mexico.

Monarchs at their overwintering site in Mexico.

This is Passport to Texas

Monarch butterflies, which are beautiful, are declining. Yet, they’re not especially good pollinators, or a significant food source for other critters. So, is being pretty reason enough to save them?

I think it’s important not to deemphasize how important this is. If you’re ever out on a Texas river in the fall, and you have hundreds or thousands of monarchs coming through – that’s a fabulous natural phenomenon.

You make a good point Ben Hutchins. Ben is Texas Parks and Wildlife’s invertebrate biologist. He says the insects have a practical value in Mexico where they overwinter.

Overwintering monarchs are a really important source of economic income as tourists come from around the world to see them.

Conserving monarchs also benefits other Texas species.

Monarch conservation, benefits a whole suite of other species. So, for example, if you’re managing a landscape to benefit monarchs, you’re also going to be benefitting many other pollinators. They also benefit a host of larger species. For example, if you’re managing habitat – keeping it open as a prairie or savannah – that’s going to be benefitting upland bird species like quail; so there’s really an economic incentive of for being conscious of monarchs when we’re managing landscapes.

Who knew, right? Tomorrow: a citizen science project to help monarchs.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Monarch Malaise

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017
Monarch on milkweed.

Monarch on milkweed.

This is Passport to Texas

Habitat loss along its migration route may be one reason the Monarch butterfly is in decline. While feeding on nectar, Monarchs pollinate wildflowers along their route, which benefits our ecosystem.

There are two primary ways that habitat supports pollinators.

Johnnie Smith oversees outreach and education at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

And one is, the adult pollinators oftentimes feed on nectar of flowers. So, flowering plants that are a food source for the pollinator is very important. But also, is the food source that the pollinator’s larvae rely on as they’re growing up and becoming an adult. And so, that is just as important as the flowering plants that support the adults.

For Monarchs, native milkweed is an important plant. By cultivating them in our yards, along with other nectar and larval plants, we can all play a part in their survival.

There is no effort that is too small to be counted worthy. And there’s no spot of land that is too small to contain pollinator habitat. So, we really want to empower everybody—tht they can make a difference. Right where you stand. Right where you live—you can crate pollinator habitat, and help turn around this negative trend with the monarchs.

Find native and adapted plants for pollinators on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Helping Hummers After Hurricane Harvey

Thursday, October 5th, 2017
Hummingbirds are adaptable.

Hummingbirds are adaptable.

This is Passport to Texas

Rockport, hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, is famous as a fall/winter hummingbird migration stopover.

Hummingbirds are equipped to handle all kinds of environmental situations – [including] natural disasters. And, they are opportunistic: they look for opportunities in which to feed.

Urban wildlife biologist, Kelly Simon says residents are rightly focused on recovery, and may not hang nectar filled feeders this season.

Hummingbirds have endured natural disasters like this for as long as there have been hummingbirds. And so, while we’re focusing right now on human needs, the physical needs of hummingbirds will be met by the hummingbirds.

Folks along the migration path might consider hanging a few extra feeders, using a 3:1 ratio to increase energy content. However…

Hummingbirds don’t live by sugar water alone. They actually require spiders and mites that the find in native plants in order to gain the fats and proteins that will help fuel their journey. That may be a thing that’s hard for them to find. But, Corpus Christi is not that far away. And Corpus Christi has an abundance of flowers – they were not hit quite as hard. So, there’s a lot of natural food out there. It may not be in Rockport, but adding about 100 miles on top of the journey, when you’re looking at a 2-thousand mile journey, is probably not significant.

Hummingbirds, like those hit by Harvey, are survivors, but always appreciate help from their friends.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti

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The following is from the TPWD publication about hummingbird gardens:

Food Resources for Hummingbirds
Remember, while sugar is important to these birds, it is not the only food resource. We need to provide for not only their energy needs, but vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients as well. This is done with a carefully planned and maintained garden. A good hummingbird garden will include:

  • Nectar producing plants designed for hummingbird attraction
    – Plants with trumpet shaped flowers usually oriented horizontal or downward
  • Insect attracting plants
    – Plants with large, flat flower heads usually oriented vertical or near so
    – These are generally yellow or blue in color Bloom season is important.

In Texas it is possible to have hummingbirds year-round, so you should aim to have plants in bloom as long as possible. In the northern reaches this becomes more difficult because of frost, but careful selection can extend the hummingbird season by weeks. Try to select plants with overlapping bloom periods so that there is always something in bloom.

Plant a food source: Nectar producers and insect attractors   

Shelter Trees and Shrubs

  • Pecans
  • Oaks
  • Elms
  • Cedar
  • Pines
  • Mountain laurel
  • Prairie flame leaf sumac
  • Evergreen sumac
  • Possum haw
  • Agarita Yaupon holly

Food Plants for Texas Hummingbirds

  • Any native sage such as autumn sage (Salvia gregii)
  • Trumpet vine
  • Cross vine
  • Coral honeysuckle
  • Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides)
  • Turk’s cap
  • Yellow bells
  • Flame acanthus
  • Native hibiscus

Layout Tips

  • Try to provide food at multiple levels of the garden
  • Plant islands of color
  •  Be sure to have plants s with overlapping bloom periods in each garden