MISSION, TX – Beautiful weather combined with the natural beauty of thousands of butterflies to delight this year’s participants in the 19th Annual Texas Butterfly Festival, which concluded Nov. 4.
Festival organizers report a total of 115 species sighted, including the very rare Blue-studded Skipper and Telea Hairstreak. While these special visitors thrilled festival participants in search of 'life' butterflies, the majority of folks who made the trek to deep, south Texas were here to experience the unique volume and variety of Lower Rio Grande Valley butterflies that burst onto the scene each fall.
Colorful migrants, including Monarchs, arrive each October through November, to herald the change of seasons. Finding warmth in the Valley—and lots of blooming flowers on which to nectar—cold-blooded butterflies typically stop here to re-fuel on their journey south; while some choose to make this their home for the winter. Moderate, seasonal temperatures and a 365-day per year growing season sustain abundant breeding and feeding areas for them at the National Butterfly Center and other native habitat preserves in the LRGV Wildlife Conservation Corridor.
The annual Texas Butterfly Festival continues to bring new people and greater renown to the region, well known for it's subtropical clime and genial atmosphere. Together, these support a booming environmental tourism industry that has an estimated economic impact of more than $400 million per year.
“The value of visitors from nearly two dozen states, many of whom stay for several weeks at this time of year, is significant,” explains Marianna Trevino-Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, which organizes and hosts the festival. “Not only do they contribute to the local tax base by frequenting local businesses, they also act as unofficial ambassadors for our community. Through social media posts, stunning photos, and reports shared back home, festival participants help spread the word about the Rio Grande Valley's friendly people, affordable amenities and, of course, our wonderful landscape, featuring clouds of butterflies that look like something straight out of a Disney movie.”
In the wake of this year's nightly news headlines, events such as the Texas Butterfly Festival are especially important to dispel negative stories about south Texas.
Chris Tenney, a former festival participant, states, “Last winter, I spent several months, most of November to March, searching for butterflies along the Rio Grande River, both on foot and by mountain bike. Most of my butterfly walks were at the National Butterfly Center, at least two-to-three times per week, and I was also a regular at Estero Llano Grande and Bentsen-RGV State Parks, and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. At no time did I feel any concern for lack of safety, and I experienced no incidents with any type of illegal crossing. Border Patrol agents were a constant presence, so I often waved to them and engaged them in conversation, and this may have enhanced my sense of security. I look forward to repeating my visit this year. I’ve already booked an RV site for December through March at Bentsen-Palm Village RV Resort.”
This year, local law enforcement played an unexpected role in the festival by directing butterfliers to a cache of Curve-winged Metalmarks near the old pump station on south Rio Rico Road, in Hidalgo County.
From Falcon Heights to Port Isabel, festival participants benefitted from the expertise of familiar guides and thoughtful planning, made possible by support from the City of Mission and Mission Economic Development Corporation, primary sponsors of the event.
“The Texas Butterfly Festival began nineteen years ago as a way to celebrate the richness and diversity of butterflies that may be found here,” states Aida Lerma, Deputy City Manager. “Since then, we've adopted the Mexican Bluewing as our official butterfly and attracted the attention of the North American Butterfly Association, which chose to build the National Butterfly Center, here. This beautiful facility represents a $7 million investment in our community—and it keeps growing. Now, Mission boasts one of the Top Gardens in Texas, and has been called 'the butterfly capitol of the USA' by USA Today. This just goes to show that preserving our natural treasures has led to many good things, like creating jobs, generating tourism and protecting quality of life for local residents.”
Today, the Texas Butterfly Festival is the nation’s premier butterflying event. To learn more about the 20th Annual Texas Butterfly Festival, and how you may join in the fun, check www.texasbutterflyfestival.com, where the full schedule events, field trips and educational sessions will be posted, or call 956.583.5400.
To learn more about the National Butterfly Center, visit www.nationalbutterflycenter.org, or call 956.583.5400.