A Unique Visitor to Austin Eco-Schools Community

The monarch butterfly migration is a unique phenomenon where multiple generations of monarchs complete a 3,000 mile journey from the oyamel forests of Michoacán, Mexico to the northern U.S. and Canada and back every year. The migration usually comes through Central Texas in the spring and again in the fall, about mid-October. During this time, many National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Eco-Schools in Austin, Texas wait with anticipation to see if monarchs will visit the pollinator habitats they built through NWF’s Monarch Heroes program.

This year, Austin students and teachers participated in the second annual Texas Pollinator Bioblitz. Some students jumped for joy as they successfully identified monarch butterflies from similar-looking butterflies. Other students proudly tagged and released monarchs for the Monarch Watch program and logged their sightings on the Journey North tracking program. Among the usual butterfly sightings was a rather unusual migration participant: a Butterbike.

The Butterbiker passes by some monarch caterpillar larvae on native milkweed in Central Texas. Photo Credit: Sara Dykman

Sara Dykman of beyondabook.org is a wildlife biologist from Kansas who goes on adventures to spread awareness of the value of nature and our duty to share the world with wildlife and future generations. Dykman decided last winter to focus on the monarch and follow the monarch’s migration via bicycle. Since she could not fly like a butterfly, she opted to mimic the migration on her “Butterbike”. Her goal is to follow the monarchs’ migration and connect people to it through talks about bike touring and what we can all do to help protect this threatened natural phenomenon.

Similar to the needs of migrating monarchs, Dykman has searched for food, water, shelter, and safety on her journey. As monarchs roosted overnight in trees, Dykman spent a few nights “roosting” in homes of new friends in Austin. During her stay, she recounted her adventures at a public talk co-hosted by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and NWF and at visits to several of our Monarch Heroes Eco-Schools. Students and teachers gave her tours of their NWF-certified Schoolyard Habitats.

“It is so rewarding to connect my adventures to students,” said Dykman. “I want to show people how incredible the world is and be an example of what it means to follow your dreams and take care of the planet.”

The Butterbiker engages students in the monarch migration at Highland Park Elementary. Photo Credit: Elizabeth McBride

Sherry Lepine from Mendez Middle School said, “Sara did two presentations back to back with enthusiasm and corny jokes- such a hoot! The kids loved it and the adults, too! She is a really amazing woman with an incredible story. Her message about living minimally and on very little money doing what she loves really resonated with our students.”

NWF staff also conducted a short interview with the Butterbiker in the pollinator habitat of Eastside Memorial High School, an NWF Green Flag Eco-School.

As the migration continues south and the days get shorter and colder, the monarchs – and the Butterbiker – must continue on their journey to overwinter in Mexico. They leave behind countless people with a commitment to help the monarch butterfly and a greater sense of our ability and responsibility to care for one another and share our world.

“I am biking to raise awareness and encourage people to plant native gardens with milkweed to be part of the solution and be part of the migration,” said Dykman. “The future of the monarch is in the hands of all North Americans”.

Help National Wildlife Federation’s South Central Region restore native habitat for migrating monarchs.

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