Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tagging Monarchs...

Last Saturday was a perfect day...
The weather was sunny and warm (70+ degrees) and there was a great turn out for one of my favorite events--tagging Monarchs...


The event was organized (in conjunction with Monarch Watch) by one of the gardening organizations I belong to, Friends of the Gardens, and held at the Dr. Bill Roston Native Butterfly House.  Monarch Watch is an organization dedicated to creating, conserving and protecting milkweed and monarch habitats..



The North American Monarch is the only insect that migrates south and hibernates.  Each year/season, four generations are born.  The first three generations live about two to four weeks, but the 4th generation migrates to the warmer climates of Mexico and California then returns to North America in the spring, living a total of six to eight months and traveling close to 2500 miles.  Monarch Watch developed the tagging program to associate the location of capture with the point of recovery for each butterfly. The data from these tagged butterflies is used to determine the pathway taken by the migrating Monarchs and also the influence of weather, the survival rate, etc...  From my location in Springfield, Missouri, the butterfly will have to travel 1600 miles to their roosting sites on the Oyamel trees in Mexico. Along this journey they will be passing through the scorched dry land of Texas--with very little nectar and water sources available, the survival rate may be lower than previous years...


In addition to the obstacles that the Monarch butterflies face during migration, their entire existence is in danger.  The host plant of the larva, milkweed, has been eliminated across much of the farming region of North America.  This is a direct result of the use of herbicide-tolerant corn and soybeans planted during the summer breeding times.  Additionally-- loss of habitat, decreased nectar sources, lack of protection of their over-wintering sites, logging of the Oyamel trees--all have a direct effect in the decline of the Monarch.  This unique insect is so reliant on certain aspects of nature to be in check--an elimination of one element would result in their extinction.


The morning of the event the Monarchs were caught or collected, carefully placed in envelopes and chilled (in a cooler) until the event...


Each person tagging the Monarch recorded the tag code, whether the butterfly was collected in the wild or reared/raised by a volunteer and the sex of the butterfly.    

The Male Monarch has easily identifiable hind-wing spots... 

 The tag is placed in the "mitten-shaped" cell on the underside of the hind-wing. 



 The butterflies were then allowed to "warm-up" before being released.


Free at last-- to began their long flight south!





 Monarch Waystation--Habitat certified by Monarch Watch that provides an adequate number of milkweed and nectar sources...

What a perfect day--to begin a long journey...

For more info on protecting Monarchs including:  creating Monarch Waystations, milkweed and tagging programs--visit Monarch Watch.



4 comments:

  1. That's incredible Becks. I've never seen or heard of tagging butterflies before and it's fascinating reading.

    Great pics agian too...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful post and photos.

    Regards and best wishes

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great photos, looks like the kids are having a great time..

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  4. my 7yr tagged 50+ last summer. perfect for kids; their small fingers are ideal for manipulating the tag onto the Monarch. Great fun & very informative.

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