Masses of butterflies on the move across Central Texas

Weather Blog

COURTESY: Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Have you noticed an increase in butterflies recently? You’re not alone – and it has everything to do with our recent weather.

What are they?

Millions of American Snout butterflies are on the move this time of year looking for their next food source and a place to lay their eggs, which locally, tends to be hackberry plants. The butterflies, with their tubular, “snout-like” nose, disguise themselves as dead leaves when closing their grey/brown wings. When opening, they show off their beautiful orange and black colors, which is why many mistaken them for Monarch butterflies.

Closed-winged American Snout Butterfly | COURTESY: Jerry Butler, University of Florida.
Open-winged American Snout Butterfly | COURTESY: North American Butterfly Association

Why the move and where are they going?

Although not technically a ‘migration’ according to butterfly experts, the explosion of insects tends to come after heavy rains following a dry spell. This particular weather pattern is exactly what has played out in Central Texas this year, spending most of August rain-free before picking up significant rain in September.

AUSTIN-CAMP MABRY RAINFALL:
— August 2020: 1.25″ / below average by 1.10″
— September 2020: 5.96″ / above average by 2.97″

Although the early dry weather acts to reduce predators, the snout butterflies will hold off on reproduction until the rain returns. Wetter weather allows for new growth on hackberry plants which baby snout caterpillars will use as fuel. (Despite these butterflies decimating the leaves off of local hackberry bushes, the plants don’t die but rather grow new leaves next season.)

Hackberry Bush | COURTESY: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Hackberry Fruit | COURTESY: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Have you seen them?

Have a photo of the swarm of butterflies you’d like to share with us? Submit your photos/video via Report it on www.KXAN.com

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