Texas Highways, Volume 51 Number 10, October 2004 Page: 51
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Butterfly expert Nancy Greig, director of the Cockrell Butterfly
Center in Houston, sparks :he interest of young naturalists
Abby Barth and Natilie Young.
from grade-school science. Butterflies
feed on numerous plants, yet they lay
their eggs on a selected one or two host
plants. Once the eggs hatch into caterpil-
lars, they have a source of food that lets
them grow and grow until it's time to
weave their chrysalis. A butterfly makes
a chrysalis or pupa; a moth makes a
cocoon. Metamorphosis goes on usually
for two weeks, but much depends on the
season and climate.
On the Saturday mo-ning of the festi-
val, Mother Nature herself leads a small
parade of youngsters in butterfly and
caterpillar costumes. "[ do other festi-
vals, but this is where my heart is," says
a costumed Joanna Rivera Stark as she
glides down the street accompanied by a
two-piece band and young cheerlead-
ers. Inside the Butterfly Bonanza tent,
kids fashion origami and macaroni but-
terflies, and stencil butterfly and other
nature motifs. Outside, Key Club and
National Honor Society students apply
free temporary butterfly
tattoos. Nearby, a cake-
walk and booths focusing
on woodcrafts and butterfly
kites draw their own crowds.
Also at the festival, Hous-
ton's Cockrell Butterfly Cen-
ter offers a screened room
brimming with plants, but-
terflies, and wide-eyed tod-
dlers. The Ronnie Martinez
family wanders through the
plant nurseries set up by ven-
dors, with Dad reading the
names of plants to the chil-
dren, who keep asking,
"What's this? What's this?"
At the NABA Interna-
tional Butterfly Park, which
will someday encompass
nearly 100 acres along the
Rio Grande, director Dr.
Sue Sill has planted host and
nectar plants for common
Valley species like the Mexi-
can Fritillary and Red-bor-
dered Pixie. "We're aiming
for the biggest diversity pos-
sible," she says. She encour-
ages people to plant natives
in their yards, yet she acknowledges that
some butterflies have moved into the
Valley because of ornamental, nonnative
flowers. A few of the NABA Park plant-
ings could be considered exotics; in Sue's
eyes, the Mission park is an experimental
garden as well as a demonstration park.
In the evening, the glow of black lights
attracts moths, Longhorn beetles, a lot of
unidentified flying objects, and us vo-
yeurs to nearby Bentsen-Rio Grande
Valley State Park. Guide Mike Quinn
tells us that, according to one theory,
moths navigate by starlight, and the bright
light throws them off course, "weirding
them out." A whole lot of eating and
being eaten is going on as we watch.
After four days immersed in butterfly
land, I wear butterfly pins, sport a tem-
porary butterfly tattoo, and hang out
with people trying to identify butterflies
plastered on the grilles of field-trip vans.
Most satisfying of all, I'm confident I
can spot my target butterflies in a lineup
or in the field: Queen, Tailed Orange,
Red-bordered Pixie, White Peacock,
Giant Swallowtail, and Zebra Helico-
nian. They should feel right at home on
the milkweed and mistflower I'm plant-
ing for them. *
Writer EILEEN MATTEI of Harlingen planted
Mexican milkweed outside her office window,
where visiting butterflies now keep her enter-
tained between assignments.
LARRY DITTO of McAllen has engaged in
nature photography for almost 30 years.
TEXAS BUTTERFLY FESTIVAL
THE 9TH ANNUAL TEXAS BUTTER-
FLY FESTIVAL, sponsored by the
Greater Mission Chamber of
Commerce, takes place October 14-17
at spots throughout the Lower Rio Grande
Valley. Workshop fees range from $5-$7; field-
trip fees range from $15-$70; most other
activities are free. For a schedule of events,
and for lodging and dining information, call
the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce
(220 E. 9th St.), 956/585-2727 or 800/
580-2700; www.missionchamber.com. Also,
log on to www.texasbutterfly.com.
The festival features field trips and excursions
to more than a dozen sites in the area (see
www.valleychamber.com for more ideas on
ecotourism in the Valley). Here are the sites
listed in the story:
Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding
Center, at 714 S. Raul Longoria Rd. in
Edinburg, opens daily 8-5. Call 956/381-
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, at
2800 S. Bentsen Dr. (FM 2062), 5 miles
southwest of Mission, opens daily 8-5 (until
7 on Thu and Sat-Sun). Call 956/585-1107;
NABA International Butterfly Park, one mile
east of Bentsen-RGV State Park (look for
signs), usually opens Mon-Sat 8:30-3. Call
Pepe's on the River, 4 miles south of Mission
at 2601 S. Conway, opens daily at noon (clos-
es around 9 Mon-Thu, midnight or later Fri-
Sun). Call 956/583-3092.
To download a copy of An Introduction to
Butterfly Watching, go to www.tpwd.state.tx.
us, and click on Nature, then Publications,
October 2004 TEXAS HIGHWAYS 51
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Texas. Department of Transportation. Texas Highways, Volume 51 Number 10, October 2004, periodical, Date Unknown; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth839147/m1/55/: accessed April 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.