Pearland pollinator habitat to attract migrating monarch butterflies on their journey to Mexico

Mexican milkweed is one of two vareties at the Pearland waystation. It is the only source of food for monarch caterpillars.

Mexican milkweed is one of two vareties at the Pearland waystation. It is the only source of food for monarch caterpillars.

Show map
Resting along a walking trail at the John Hargrove Environmental Complex in Pearland is a tiny sliver of restored prairie habitat that is expected to draw monarch butterflies during their fall migratory journey to Mexico.

The city of Pearland Parks and Recreation Department created the pollinator habitat with roughly 80 plants from about 20 species. The habitat was certified as a monarch butterfly waystation this summer, and a sign was erected at the site in early August. The habitat was created to support the species, which is on the decline.

“The city is aware of a pollinator problem,” said Abbey Stripling, an outdoor recreation programmer for the city of Pearland. “A lot of insects are called indicator species, and that is something that tells us something is going on in your habitat good or bad. If we don’t have things to sustain butterflies, what are they going to affect next?”

Monarch butterflies begin their 3,000-mile migration from Canada and the northern U.S. in the fall and journey south to the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico, for winter hibernation. Along the way, the butterflies pass through the Texas Gulf Coast in October and November. The butterflies then make the trip back north in the spring, which will take four generations to complete.

But Monarch butterfly populations have suffered significant declines over the past 20 years.

“Without us here in Texas, monarchs would not exist because they come down off the mountains in Mexico, they come through Texas, and this is their first breeding ground. They’re a multigenerational species,” Monarch Gateway Executive Director Barbara Keller-Willy said. Monarch Gateway is a Fort Bend County nonprofit that encourages pollinator habitats around the Gulf Coast by distributing milkweed plants, hosting workshops and consulting on projects.

An estimated 1 billion monarch butterflies made the overwintering migration to Mexico in 1996-97. During the 2016-17 winter, only 109 million monarch butterflies made the trip to Mexico, according to the U.S. National Wildlife Federation. The species hit an all-time low in 2013 when only 33 million monarch butterflies were reported to have completed the migration.

The plight of the migratory insect is reflective of the significant declines in prairies—its native habitat—across the country. Prairieland is the most endangered ecological system in the U.S. and Canada.

“As we try to manipulate all of this land … we leave less and less for the pollinators,” Keller-Willy said. “If we just keep these little slivers of otherwise unused lands and we begin sprinkling milkweeds, we can have an impact.”

Prairies stretched for 170 miles through the heartland of the U.S. with chest-high grass stretching from the Texas coast to Saskatchewan, Canada, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River, serving as the largest continuous ecosystem on the continent. The prairie supported a diversity of grasses, flora, insects and animals. Today, only 1 percent of prairie habitat exists, according to the National Park Service.

Zinnia Zinnia flowers are another favorite to include in pollinator gardens to attract adult monarch butterflies.[/caption]

The loss of prairie and widespread use of herbicides has destroyed the monarch butterflies only source of food. Milkweed is the only host plant that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on, and it is the only source of food for monarch caterpillars. Adult butterflies require nectar flowers, so habitats typically require more than milkweed.Zinnia is a popular nectar flower for adult monarch butterflies.

“This is the perfect example of a literal butterfly effect,” Stripling said. “If we lose the monarch species, what is going to happen to all of the other species that use the same plants? People may not realize the connections that are made.”Zinnia is a popular nectar flower for adult monarch butterflies.

The city of Pearland’s pollinator habitat was prompted by the Girl Scout Troop 27119, who planted an initial habitat of about 20 plants last summer. Most of the habitat died over the winter, and the city replanted and expanded the habitat through this spring and summer in anticipation of the fall migration. The city will add low fencing to provide a convenient place for monarch chrysalis.

Pearland’s habitat includes Mexican milkweed, orange milkweed, purple coneflower, Turk’s cap, bronze fennel, lantana and zinnia. Herbicides and pesticides are strictly prohibited.


MOST RECENT

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg outlines the current domestic violence situation in the county during an Oct. 27 web panel. (Community Impact Newspaper via Harris County District Attorney's Office)
Harris County District Attorney's Office outlines plan to combat domestic violence

To date, 10,888 domestic violence assault cases have been filed so far in 2021.

Harris County residents with certain disabilities will now have better access to potentially life-saving information, thanks to a new accessible alert system launched by The Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Oct. 26. (Screenshot via Facebook Live)
Ready Harris rolls out new accessible alert system

Known as the Ready Harris Accessible Alert System, the new program will provide accessible alerts, warnings and preparedness information to individuals who are deaf, blind, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or low vision.

Virtual learning for K-6 students will continue to be offered at CCISD, as this is independent of the temporary remote conferencing option. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Clear Creek ISD to pause remote conferencing as COVID-19 cases decline and other updates

Remote conferencing, which has been available to students since late August, will be offered through Oct. 29, district leaders said Oct. 25. It is offered via the Texas Education Agency and meant for those who may need to receive instruction from home for durations of up to 20 days.

Windsor Fashions LLC on Oct. 15 opened its doors inside Baybrook Mall. (Courtesy Windsor Fashions)
National retail store Windsor Fashions LLC opens at Baybrook Mall

Windsor Fashions LLC opened Oct. 15 inside Baybrook Mall at 500 Baybrook Mall, Ste. 1314, Friendswood, in the Forever 21 wing next to Charlotte Russe.

From left, Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Wayne Young, CEO of The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis announced a new community-initiated mental health care project during a press conference Oct. 26. (Screenshot via Facebook Live)
Harris County officials unveil new three-year $8.93M community-initiated mental health care initiative

The community care model will focus on 10 ZIP codes totaling about 300,000 residents that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and suicide, and that have a lower utilization of behavioral health care services, by providing mental health education and training to members of the community.

Harris County Deputy Kareem Atkins was honored by Harris County commissioners on Oct. 26. (Emily Lincke/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County commissioners designate Oct. 25 as 'Deputy Kareem Atkins Day'

“Deputy Kareem Atkins Day” will be celebrated annually to recognize Atkins' heroism and service, Judge Lina Hidalgo said at the court’s Oct. 26 regular meeting. According to Hidalgo, Atkins was the first Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office deputy to be fatally shot.

"The Dude" is the signature burger at Lebowski's Grill. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Lebowski's Grill upends expectations in Austin; first Houston-area Costco Business Center opens in Stafford and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 26.

Houston-based PBK Architects presented the updated design plans for Cline Elementary School and Friendswood High School to the Friendswood ISD board of trustees. (Sierra Rozen/Community Impact Newspaper)
Friendswood ISD proceeds with design plans for new Cline Elementary, Friendswood High School renovations

Construction of the new Cline Elementary School, located on the West Ranch site, has been budgeted $44.6 million and will replace the old Cline Elementary School. Meanwhile, the renovations and additions to Friendswood High School have been budgeted for $53.4 million, according to board documents. 

New statewide maps will go into effect Jan. 18, 2022. (Community Impact Newspaper Staff)
Gov. Abbott approves new voting maps for state legislature, Congress, school districts for next decade

The maps will go into effect Jan. 18, 2022, after the state legislature passed them during a 30-day special session.

The statewide job fair will connect veterans to employers as well as other resource providers. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Statewide job fair aims to connect Texas veterans and their families to employers

The job fair is coming to local Texas Workforce Solutions offices, some of which are having early admission for veterans and their families.

(Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Texas Medical Center coronavirus updates: Average daily hospitalizations continue decline, drop below 100 since early July

For the first time since early July, the average number of daily coronavirus hospitalizations at Texas Medical Center hospitals has dropped below 100.