Monarch butterflies in trouble as they return to Abilene, Big Country

ABILENE, Texas - Monarch butterfly numbers have decreased dramatically in recent years and more troubles face them as they return to Texas this spring.

It's the milkweed plant, or lack thereof, and without it they can't lay their eggs.

"It has a chemical in it that gives them protection, it makes them toxic so birds can't feed on them," said Marianne Marugg, a Big Country master naturalist.

The milkweed shortage isn't just in Texas.

In the Midwest, where many Monarchs settle for the summer, herbicides used for farming have killed much of the population.

Development of formerly rural areas have also cut the milkweed population back.

Closer to home, native milkweed is often thought of as unsightly so it is cut down along roadsides and in pastures.

Find images of native milkweed at http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ASAS

If you think you may have native milkweed plants on your property, the Big Country Master Naturalists want to hear from you.

Contact them through the Taylor County AgriLife Extension Office at (325) 672-6048.

Seeds from living plants can be cultivated in an effort to bring back the native plants.

In an effort to help combat the shortage, the Big Country Master Gardeners and Naturalists will be selling tropical milkweed at the BCMG Spring Plant Sale.

This sale will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 12 in the Modern Living Mall of the Taylor Country Expo Center.

Some of the plants even have a surprise!

From just being outside for a short time, butterflies have already laid their eggs on them.

This could help you get a jump start on your own butterfly garden.

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