Butterflies of Mission

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This fall the North American Butterfly Association will be holding its biennial meeting during the 21st Annual Texas Butterfly Festival hosted at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. This event gives members of the North American Butterfly Association, founded in 1993, the opportunity to visit and celebrate their flagship project in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

The festival takes place during prime butterfly migration season when spectators may see as many as 60 different species in one day. Registered participants will have access to special guided tours and educational activities during the 3 day event. The Lower Rio Grande Valley is home to over 300 species of butterfly, approximately 150 of which are native only to this region and Northern Mexico. More than 200 of these species have been seen at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas including U.S. records such as the Orange Banner and the Guatemalan Leafwing.

During the fall and winter seasons, butterflies from colder states and regions of North America migrate south where it is warmer. Not much is known about exact migration patterns of individuals species, other than the Monarch. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Monarchs in the western part of North America migrate to California and the Monarchs from the eastern part of North America migrate to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, bringing them straight through the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the National Butterfly Center.

Butterfly gardens, like those of the National Butterfly Center, are becoming increasingly popular due to the fear of the extinction of some species. While creating one in your own backyard may appear to be difficult at first, it can actually be quite simple. It all comes down to providing enough sunlight and plant diversity to provide shelter and nutrition for your colorful visitors. It is important to have plants and features that support these colorful creatures throughout their life cycle. Texas Parks and Wildlife recommends nectar plants such as Elbowbush, Horsemint and Bee Brush to provide nutrition. They also recommend specific host plants depending on what species of butterfly you are trying to attract, for example they suggest milkweed for Monarchs and citrus for Giant Swallowtails.

Sometimes called the Butterfly Capital of the United States, the city of Mission, Texas has recently launched their Butterfly Sculpture project in honor of Mission being the home of the National Butterfly Center and hundreds of species of butterflies. Conceived of by Maxilou Link of the Upper Valley Art League (UVAL), ten sculptures of different butterflies have been placed around the city. Previously, UVAL has placed sculptures of city leaders around the city, but the butterfly sculptures are part of a beautification project. “I really thought of Mission as a cocoon ready to develop into a beautiful butterfly and so that inspired the design for the butterfly.” Several local organizations took on the painting of individual sculptures, making this a true community endeavor.