Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tagging Monarch Butterfiles

Update 03/01/2011: so far there has not been any feedback on the location of these butterflies. Sometimes, information does not become available for as long as two years after tagging. I will follow up with an update if any information becomes available.

In my most recent butterfly count in Montgomery County Texas, our count team had the privilege of tagging 14 Monarch butterflies before their migration to Mexico. This year, there is a shortage of these insects due to cold conditions in Mexico last winter. It is a special year for tracking these beautiful creatures.
First we had to find and catch them. This attempt was successful. The Monarch was in flight about to land on this wall of flowers where it was captured.

Then a tag purchased from the NABA was carefully placed on the outside of the wing in a specific place. Each of us had the chance to tag a butterfly. I successfully tagged one. You have to be very careful not to harm the insect.
Tagged Monarch
The tag is uniquely numbered, so it is cataloged with the location, sex, and other pertinent information to enable an accurate record of its migration and/or ultimate destination if and when someone spots the tag and records the butterfly whereabouts.  You can see the tag more clearly if you click on the photo.
Then the butterfly is put into a white mesh container which would eventually be opened to release the insects back into their habitat.
Don DuBois
Our group leader, Don DuBois, organized this activity. He is a big local butterfly enthusiast.
On completion of the task, the tagged butterflies were released. We had two casualties of the 14 captured butterflies in the process. Well, actually one was given a splint in the hope it could make its journey, but the other will probably remain local and not survive the winter.
Monarch preparing to resume normal life

A few just hung around for a while, not particularly anxious to fly off, but eventually got their wings and disappeared. Now we hope to hear the outcome and see if any are actually spotted in Mexico.

Link to the North American Butterfly Association (NABA)
Link to the local chapter of NABA: Butterfly Enthusiasts of Southeast Texas - B.E.S.T.

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