Beauty of Butterflies
by Christine Donald: Outdoor Recreation Planner / SANWR
published September 2016

When you think of summer many things pop into your head. Picnics, barbeque, pools, beach, hot weather, gnats, skin rashes and for many butterflies. Look out bird watchers ... butterfly watchers are on the rise.

It is so funny to see people hovered over flowers, bushes, and shrubs trying to get a photo of an insect that will not for a moment sit still. People running around in circles and often running into each other to get a rare butterfly can be great fun to watch. Note: no butterfly watchers were hurt but many may get a scratch or two from the not so nice vegetation in South Texas.

Butterflies mean a lot of things to folks and I was surprised by their meanings to different cultures. In Pre-Hispanic, Mexican Indian culture, the butterfly is one of the symbolic representatives of Tlaloc, god of rain. Among some tribes of Mexico the butterfly is a symbol of the fertility of the earth. Louisianans associate butterflies with luck, good and bad depending on their color.

For Native Americans, butterflies play a variety of roles in their folktales differing from tribe to tribe. In the folklore of some tribes, butterflies represent change and balance; in others, ephemeral beauty; and in some, vanity and frivolous behavior. Many tribes consider butterflies to be symbols of good luck, and some have taboos against killing them.

Blackfoot people associate butterflies with sleep and dreaming, and butterfly designs were used to decorate cradle boards and other children's items to help them sleep and bring them good dreams. Butterflies for many symbolize endurance, change, hope, and life.

Butterflies have been symbols for celebrations, weddings, life, and life's journey. Wow, one little insect means so many different things. Butterflies are beautiful and summer without them would not be the same. Some like the Monarch butterfly are being protected by nature preservationists. Butterflies are pollinators which have taken a hit with habitat loss, pesticides, and weather. Without pollinators we would not have many of the foods we all like to eat ... a taco without the corn tortilla wouldn't be a taco.

In the valley we have a great variety of butterflies. According to the National Butterfly Center, nearly 150 species of North American butterflies can be seen only in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of Texas, or by traveling to Mexico. More than three hundred species of butterflies are only found in the LRGV. Almost 40% of the 700+ butterflies that can be found in the United States can be seen in a three-county area at the southernmost tip of Texas, where the climate makes it possible to enjoy the outdoors year-round.

The LRGV is a good place to come see the beauty of butterflies and especially at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge where almost half of the all the butterfly species in North American can be found. I hope to see you hovering over bushes looking for butterflies.