“The main issues across the board are the reproduction of plants that are full of herbicides or insecticides,” Galindo told the audience. “In addition, our main concern is also the migration pathway. For many years we were concerned about the hibernation sites, but this is not a Mexican issue only. … The migration has to be looked at from the breeding sites to the winter sites and back.”
Right now, the fall Monarch migration is in full swing in South Texas, and citizen scientists are helping professional scientists to track the migration, Howard said.
“The importance of Texas is so great,” she said, “because the migration passes through here in both directions.”
“Today, Monarchs are still coming out of Ontario when they should have been out of there three weeks ago,” Taylor said.
The delayed migration patterns have him “very concerned” because the delay could affect how many Monarchs will make it to the roosting sites in Michoacán, Mexico. “Monarchs can travel up to 300 miles in three days, and I predicted high populations from the Northeast … but what I couldn’t predict were the fall winds and temperatures.”
The rise in temperatures during the fall, Taylor said, has caused delayed migration patterns because Monarchs don’t like to fly when it’s 80 or 90 degrees. In addition, strong headwinds are a factor. There are reports of downward trends in Monarch populations across the board, Hénault-Ethier said, citing a recent study that shows a 90% decline in Mexico.
“I don’t know how this will pan out, but I’m concerned,” Taylor said. “We’ll have to wait and see. It’s a year of surprises.”
“There are several issues we don’t have a handle on like climate change, which is hard to get a grip on on a short-term basis,” Hénault-Ethier said. “Let’s educate people. If there is less milkweed there is less likelihood for Monarchs to reproduce.”
Hénault-Ethier said that she’s working with Canadians to plant more milkweed in urban environments and cities – places where concrete is king. Recently, 5,000 milkweed plants were sold in Canada, she added, and advocates plan to encourage more people to plant them.
Scientists need help – “more eyes and ears,” Howard said, emphasizing the need for more citizen scientists to record observations. Galindo and Taylor said more pollinator gardens and way stations could make a significant difference, as they help the Monarchs renew their energy and continue on their journey.
Taylor said all citizens must be more proactive in terms of conservation.
“A reporter in Mexico asked me, ‘Why do you conservationists care more about animals than your people?’” Taylor said. “I love that question. The bottom line is, I care about those animals because I really care about people. It’s about us. … It’s about our future and the environment we want to see in the future.”
Monika Maeckle, director of the three-day festival and of the Texas Butterfly Ranch, introduced the panel following a welcome video featuring Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who recently recommitted to the National Wildlife Federation Mayor’s Monarch Butterfly Pledge. The discussion was moderated by Rackspace Vice President Dan Goodgame, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and bestselling author.
To learn more about the festival, visit the Texas Butterfly Ranch website.