The beautiful monarch butterfly used to be a common sight in Texas. Now, these brightly-colored winged creatures are struggling to survive.
During the fall months, millions of butterflies would migrate through Texas on their way to the Mexico from the Midwest and Canada. Now, it's a rare event to see even just a handful of the creatures flying through the state.
"Really in the last decade or two we've seen their populations decline precipitously -- really by as much as 80 to 90 percent," Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Carter Smith told News 88.7.
Researchers believe there are three primary factors contributing to the decline of monarchs. Urban and agricultural development in the U.S. is destroying milkweed, which monarchs use as a habitat to lay eggs. The eradication of fir tree forests in Mexico has also left the creatures without a safe place to spend the winter season. Lastly, a record-breaking drought in the Great Plains region, where the butterflies migrate in the summer, is causing a decline in the monarch butterfly population.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department say the monarch's future lies in Texans' hands. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will give the state $1 million to plant native milkweed in an effort to save the butterflies. Environmentalists are also encouraging Texans to plant milkweed in order to help increase the number of butterflies in the coming years.
Both monarchs and bees are essential to the pollination process, which is crucial to our ecosystem and agriculture.
"Every single person can play a role here and help create native habitats of all sizes," said Smith. Hopefully with a little hard work, Texans will help preserve these incredible creatures for future generations to enjoy.