As spring flowers bloom, butterflies, bees and other pollinators are at work in local gardens and visiting wildflowers along the highway. Among those is the state insect and a recognizable orange, black and white butterfly—the monarch.
Over the past 20 years the monarch butterfly population has decreased, according to Curt Randa, Cedar Park parks and recreation director, raising concern about their numbers as the butterflies fly across the United States each year from Mexico to Canada.
Texas plays a role in this migration pattern, said Randa, as both the fall and spring migrations travel through Texas.
“It’s a fascinating multigenerational journey that this insect takes every year from Mexico to Canada and back,” he said.
Through a Mayor’s Monarch Pledge that was signed in 2016, the city of Cedar Park is participating in the National Wildlife Federation’s Monarch Recovery Initiative. Randa said as part of the program the city has been limiting pesticide use, adjusting mowing schedules to avoid destroying milkweed and nectar plants, planting milkweed, supporting local garden clubs in Elizabeth Milburn and Veterans Memorial parks, and posting educational information in the parks.
Leander has not signed onto the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge.
Cathy Clark-Ramsey, nursery manager for Farmer’s Nursery in Leander, said the facility receives milkweed grown in Georgetown, which currently has butterfly weed and tropical milkweed.
To benefit monarchs and other types of butterflies, Clark-Ramsey said planting host plants is key. Although monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, the plant is toxic to other butterflies. Parsley and fennel are common plants for caterpillars.
“You want to have a source of water for butterflies,” she said. “A lot of times if you’re going to have a garden, people will put in decomposed granite, which absorbs water that the butterflies can then drink from.”
Other resources in the Cedar Park and Leander areas include the Williamson County Master Gardeners, Good Water Master Naturalists and the the Native Plant Society of Texas.