Common Questions We Hear about MonarchsDo monarch butterflies migrate through the Houston area?
Yes! We see migratory monarchs during the spring and fall.
Houston and the surrounding area has a small population of monarch butterflies that do not migrate. They live here year round!
Unfortunately, the Cockrell Butterfly Center’s environment is not ideal for monarch butterflies. It is best to release them outside in their native habitat.
Try to release them in a sunny spot, preferably on a day that is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not be surprised if they do not fly away immediately, they’ll do so when they’re ready!
We do not have the ability to take in injured or deformed butterflies. If found outside, we recommend leaving it and letting nature take its course. If you have already rescued the butterfly or it is one that you raised, we suggest one of the following options:
- You can keep it in a container with access to food to live out its life. A cotton ball in a dish soaked in hummingbird nectar or orange slices work well. Make sure you have plenty of twigs for the butterfly to climb on.
- Humanely euthanize the butterfly. You can do this by placing it in the freezer for a minimum of 24 hours. This will slowly and painlessly shutdown the butterfly’s systems.
Unfortunately, we do not have the facilities to adopt caterpillars. We recommend one of the following options:
- You can check our resources page below for a list of local nurseries that may have surplus milkweed to purchase to feed your butterflies.
- If your caterpillars are large, you can try feeding slices of butternut squash or pumpkin. This should give them enough nutrition to pupate.
Tropical milkweed has become quite controversial during the past couple of years. Though it grows fast and is easy to propagate, it does not die back in the fall like native milkweeds do. This is thought to confuse monarchs during their migration while also allowing diseases such as OE to persist and multiply during the winter. To address these concerns, we suggest cutting it back mid-November 4-6 inches from the ground.
Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, more simply known as OE, is a debilitating protozoan parasite known to infect milkweed feeding butterflies such as monarchs and their relatives. Learn more about OE and it’s affects on Monarch butterflies.
Never use any sort of insecticides on plants in or near your butterfly garden! One our horticulturalists explains butterfly-safe pest control in this video.
If you have the correct nectar and host plants, monarchs will find you! Sometimes it just takes them a while.
If the caterpillars were all very large, they may have wandered off the host plant to find a secure place to pupate. However, monarch butterflies in all stages are a pillar of the food chain. Many insects and other animals use them as a food source, even though they’re poisonous.
If it’s the fall and you see a monarch butterfly laying eggs on your milkweed, it more than likely is one of our resident monarchs and not one belonging to the migratory population. Migratory monarchs go into a reproductive diapause, meaning they don’t mate or lay eggs until the spring.
More questions about Monarchs? Email us!
Resources about Monarch Butterflies
Citizen Science Projects
- Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP)
- Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program
- Journey North
- Monarch Watch (Monarch Tagging)
- BAMONA (Butterflies and Moths of North America)
- NABA (North American Butterfly Association)
- Project Monarch Health
- The Xerces Society
- Texas Butterfly Monitoring Network
- USDA Plant Growing Zones
- Houston-area Milkweed & Nectar Plant Resources
- Nationwide Milkweed Resources