I have been anxious to get outside and visit more of the amazing nature areas nearby but the weather has been less than cooperative in that arena. Even on the day that Quinta Mazatlan celebrated the monarch butterfly with their Monarch Festival, there was a 30-40% chance of rain. I decided to risk it and go anyway. It rained on the way there so I was mentally prepared to just find a place to go have breakfast. But the rain finally stopped about 10 miles from McAllen and held off until I was driving home.
The colorful entry really brightened up an otherwise pretty gray day. I loved the vibrant orange umbrellas overhead and the striking red bougainvilleas down the walkway. There was lively music playing and the parade celebrating the monarch butterfly was about to start when I arrived.
Monarch Fest — Celebrating the Monarch Butterfly at Quinta Mazatlan
This year was the 3rd annual City of McAllen Monarch Festival, a festival to celebrate the northern migration of the monarch butterfly. The celebration featured art, education, food and entertainment. There were lots of fun activities for kids but there was plenty for adults as well. Click on the video to check it all out.
The Monarch Butterfly
Monarch butterflies are strikingly beautiful and one of the most recognizable butterflies in the world. They live in North, Central, and South America as well as Australia, some Pacific Islands, India, and Western Europe. Some say they are called monarch because they are considered to be the king of butterflies. Their average wingspan is about 4 inches but it can reach nearly 5 inches.
Their beautiful, distinct orange, black and white coloring actually sends a message to predators that they are poisonous. The caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed which contains a toxic poison that builds up and is stored in their bodies. As a result, a predator eating a monarch probably won’t die but it will get sick enough that it likely will not try to eat another one!
Monarch Butterfly Life Stages and North American Migration
Monarch butterflies go through four generations in one year. The first three generations go through the same process, living 2-6 weeks, while making the northern migration.
- In February and March, the monarch comes out of hibernation to find a mate
- After mating, the males die
- The females then begin migrating north and east to find a place to lay their eggs
- Eggs are laid on milkweed plants in March and April
- Eggs hatch in about four days
- After about two weeks, the fully grown caterpillar will find a place to attach itself and transform into a chrysalis
- After just 10 days, a fully formed butterfly will emerge
- During the 2-6 weeks of the butterfly’s life, it will feed, lay eggs and continue moving north
- The second generation hatches in May and June
- The third generation hatches in July and August
The fourth generation goes through the same life cycle process with a bit of a difference.
- Eggs hatch in September and October
- They live up to 9 months
- They make the entire epic migration south to the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico or west to southern California
- The migration distance can be as much as 3,000 miles
- Monarchs can travel 50-100 miles per day
- Millions of monarchs make the trip south to roost and hibernate
Why do Butterflies Matter?
What makes butterflies important? Why do we celebrate them?
- Besides adding a tremendous amount of beauty and whimsy to the world, butterflies are pollinators. This is by far the most consequential reason they matter. As adults, butterflies feed on flower nectar and pick up pollen on their bodies. Like bees, they carry this pollen from plant to plant. This is so important because about one third of the food we eat depends on pollination.
- Caterpillars eat undesirable plants, like the monarchs and their milkweed. They may also eat seeds that prevent plants from overproducing.
- Most butterflies, at all life stages, can be a food source for birds, lizards, spiders, small mammals and even other insects.
- Scientists use the presence or absence of butterflies as a barometer to determine an ecosystems health. They also study their behavior to help determine the impact of environmental issues.
What about that amazing, unique monarch migration? Do you find it mind boggling, like I do, that these tiny creatures travel thousands of miles to a place they have never been before? Once they are there, researchers say many of them return to the very same trees of their ancestors. I think this inspiring phenomenon alone is worth a celebration!
Quinta Mazatlan — Mansion with a Mission
The mission of Quinta Mazatlan is “to enrich people’s lives by sharing knowledge about birds, plants, and environmental stewardship in South Texas.” Celebrating the monarch butterfly through the Monarch Festival is just one of many ways Quinta Mazatlan helps fulfill its mission.Celebrating the monarch butterfly through the #MonarchFestival is just one of many ways #QuintaMazatlan helps fulfill its mission. Click To Tweet
Quinta Mazatlan is an historical adobe and 20-acre urban sanctuary. The Spanish revival style mansion was constructed in 1935 as a private home. It is one of the largest adobe structures in Texas at a whopping 10,000 square feet. After more than 60 years of private ownership by two different owners, it was put up for sale. Developers wanted to demolish the adobe structure but, fortunately, it was saved when the City of McAllen bought it in 1998. As a result, this urban sanctuary opened to the public in 2006.
Here are some of the impressive programs and amenities offered at Quinta Mazatlan:
- Programs for children
- Public and private group tours for adults
- Nature speaker series
- Hands-on classes
- Folk art room
- Special events
- Facility rental
- Low ropes course leadership programs
- Volunteer opportunities
- Nature store
- Art gallery
The Amazing Thornforest at Quinta Mazatlan
A leisurely walk through the 20-acre tamaulipan thornforest* that surrounds the mansion is restorative. Thanks to the lush vegetation, the sound and sight of birds everywhere, and water features, tranquility envelopes you.
Quinta Mazatlan is one of nine unique locations in the Rio Grande Valley that make up the World Birding Center. More than 250 species have been identified here, including many of the favorite valley specialties that can’t be found anywhere else in the country.
Life-size bronze sculptures and plenty of interpretive trail signage make for a very educational self-guided tour.
Hours Open to the Public
Tuesday to Saturday 8 am to 5 pm
Open Thursday Nights until Dark
All-in-all, it was a beautiful day, in spite of the weather. Are you wondering if I saw hundreds of butterflies during the Monarch Festival at Quinta Mazatlan? Unfortunately, I didn’t see a single one. The weather has been colder than normal and damp so they haven’t arrived here yet. But soon!
Have you seen the monarch butterfly migration anywhere?
Until next time…
*The tamaulipan thornforest is the plant community that once covered the Rio Grande Valley with a mix of cactus, mesquite, thorny underbrush and river-bound wetlands.