Monarch butterflies were immersed in the warmth of Central America and Mexico when Texans were exposed to snow, ice, and record temperatures in February.
These winter storms could hit the monarch populations, said expert and enthusiast Craig Wilson, limiting the amount of milkweed and nectar plants available across Texas as the insects migrate north to the Midwest and Canada.
Spurge and nectar in Texas are critical to the two-way migration of monarch butterflies, said Wilson, director of the USDA Future Scientists Program and senior research fellow at the Texas A&M Center for Mathematics and Science Education.
“The problem is, I believe the frost has held back the milkweed – the native milkweed – and killed a large part of the tropical milkweed. When the monarchs get here, I doubt there’s enough milkweed for them to lay their eggs, “he said.
There was a similar shortage of milkweed last year, he said, noting that he had 50 eggs on one milkweed plant and had to switch caterpillars to other milkweed plants because one plant did not have enough food for all.
“And I have a feeling that the situation may get worse this year because the milkweed is critical and I think it is way below where it normally would be,” he said.
The irony, he said, is that migration started about two weeks earlier than usual as temperatures in Central America and Mexico were warmer than usual. Typically, the monarch butterflies, which are the state insect of Texas, begin the northern portion of their two-way migration around March 21, he said.