Monarchs on the Move
As the monarch flutters its wings and settles on to the outstretched hand of Kaitlin Bacon, the manager of the Children’s Garden at Myriad Botanical Gardens gently lifts the beautiful orange and black butterfly out of its temporary nest.
Lily Peppers, the youth education coordinator, explains to a handful of children and their parents that it’s OK to touch the delicate creature on the underside of its wings while she carefully affixes a small sticker there. Then on the count of three, the monarch lifts off and takes flight to the cheers of all.
Each year, monarchs migrate south in winter and north in summer. To gain more information about this incredible phenomenon, and learn about the yearly monarch migration to their wintering spot in central Mexico and back, tagging was initiated in 1992 to help us further understand this mind-boggling journey.
Oklahoma is perfectly located along the monarch migration highway. Tagging these butterflies as they make their way south helps answer a host of questions about the migration, from the timing and pace, to mortality during the trip. Each butterfly tagged is uniquely coded, with a new set of codes issued each migration season. The tags do not harm the butterfly or disturb its flight in any way. Taggers record the tag code, date, gender of the butterfly, and their geographic location before releasing the butterfly to continue its flight. The data collected is submitted to Monarch Watch, a large-scale national tagging program, and used for research, with the majority of tags recovered in central Mexico.
With the fall migration underway, monarch tagging is a great way for citizen-scientists to help understand the lifecycle of monarchs. Monarch Watch offers tagging kits that include a set of tags, instructions, a datasheet, and additional monarch migration information. Tagging kits are available shop.monarchwatch.org