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Drought Taking a Toll on Butterfly Population

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KINGSVILLE, Mo. -- The drought is taking its toll on everything: you, your grass, plants, trees, and now the butterflies.

The Butterfly Festival - one of the largest in country - is this weekend at Powell Gardens in eastern Jackson County. You can see hundreds of butterflies there, but horticulturist Alan Branhagen says some butterflies are not as plentiful as in years past, thanks to the drought.

"Flowers aren't growing, which they need for nectar for the adult butterfly, and the host plants are drying up literally drying up," says Branhagen. "And in some cases it's just so hot that the caterpillars are just melting down in the heat."

Powell Gardens is especially concerned about the Monarchs, after doing its official butterfly count for the North American Butterfly Association.

"The Monarch was actually the lowest count we've ever had, this was actually the 10th year we've done it, so they are suffering," he says.

Ann Ryan with Monarch Watch says Monarch populations were already struggling because they're losing their habitats so this added stress is worrisome.

"The flowers that are usually blooming in September are blooming now," she says. "So what that will do for migration in September? Only time will tell."

Powell Gardens is hoping that once people leave here they'll be educated about the problem, and want to do what they can to help.

They encourage people to plant Milkweed and other butterfly friendly flowers in their gardens, and keep those gardens healthy and wet to make sure Monarchs have plenty of food for their migration to Mexico, which will start in September.

To find out about Powell Gardens Butterfly Festival click here. To find out more about how to plant a butterfly garden and what plants butterflies like best, click here.

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