The Monarch Butterfly Crisis


Taylor Albert, Reporter

The Monarch butterfly’s fate hangs in the balance as climate change decimates the Monarch population. The Monarch is a milkweed butterfly in the insect family Nymphalidae. These beautiful creatures have been around for almost two million years, inhabiting mostly east of the Rocky Mountains in North America, although a smaller group on the west coast teeters on the edge of extinction.

The problem of climate change has been affecting the way they are living. Butterflies are sensitive to weather changes due to their dependence on the environment, in particular the temperature. They depend on a healthy environment to reproduce, hibernate, and migrate. The milkweed habitat is declining, which is what they depend on for sustenance and reproduction. There is also a decline in their habitat due to extreme weather changes. Because of this, there has been approximately a 30% to 90% decline of the species.

Monarchs are seen heavily in the northern parts of America. Throughout the weeks of August through October 2022, they migrated to the interior parts of America. During early October they were seen in part of Texas such as in San Antonio, Lubbock, and Amarillo. While preparing for cold fronts, they stay for a few weeks in Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas before heading down to Michoacan, Mexico mountains. According to Mr. Carpenter, a Ball High teacher and Monarch butterfly enthusiast, the last three winters have found Monarchs still in Texas, not traveling south to their winter habitat in Mexico. “This is because of the warmer winters,” Carpenter said.

There are four generations of the Monarch that travel from Mexico to the Great Lakes, then back to Mexico again. Three of the four generations live from six to eight weeks, and the fourth generation lives longer (approximately six months) because the fourth generation lays over for the Winter in Mexico.

The Monarch eats only milkweed, which is poisonous to every other animal or insect except the Queen butterfly that imitates the Monarch’s life cycle. It takes four to six days for the egg to hatch into a caterpillar, then eight to ten days, depending on the temperature, for the caterpillar to grow into a larger caterpillar, and eventually it metamorphosizes into a chrysalis.

The future butterflies then stay in the chrysalis for ten days. The chrysalis, which is holding the butterfly, is jade green and changes into a translucent shell in which the Monarch’s black wings are clearly visible. When the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, the butterfly hangs upside down so that the wings are pulled down by gravity. It generally takes between one and two hours for the wings to extend to their normal shape and harden so the butterfly can fly. When the butterfly is fully hatched, it migrates either north or south depending on the weather and time of year.

Many wildlife experts are worried about the extinction of this special species of butterfly. Sanctuaries located around Texas and the Gulf Coast were created in an effort to protect the Monarchs.

The Bryan Museum, Galveston TX, has a butterfly and bird garden, which has the appropriate plants and nutrients for them. The Bryan has an abundance of plants that attract butterflies due to their color and nectar. There is milkweed in the garden to attract Monarch butterflies in hopes to grow and protect them. Many Galvestonians have taken the Monarch’s to heart and created their own small butterfly sanctuaries filled with milkweed and nutritious flowers for the butterflies to dine upon. Want to have some fun? Create your own small sanctuary of milkweed plants and help the world: raise Monarchs!