With fall comes cooler temperatures, the leaves changing, pumpkin picking, apple cider and for me, monarch tagging. Early October is peak season in our area to catch and tag migrating monarch butterflies. This year The Parklands staff and several volunteers set out, nets in hand, to contribute our part to a larger citizen science project that tracks monarchs on their migration to Mexico. I am pleased to announce we tagged 34 monarch butterflies at the Parklands this year! The monarch population has declined by nearly 90% in the last twenty years due to loss of habitat and resources needed by the monarch butterfly to survive.
Monarch Watch is the non-profit, research program that runs the nation-wide effort to tag monarch butterflies. The data collected from monarch tagging help scientist better understand the life of a monarch butterfly and identify trends that help make real decisions on how best to conserve the population. From monarch watch:
“Tagging helps answer questions about the origins of monarchs that reach Mexico, the timing and pace of the migration, mortality during the migration, and changes in geographic distribution. It also shows that the probability of reaching Mexico is related to geographic location, size of the butterfly, and the date (particularly as this relates to the migration window for a given location).”
In the spring, after the tagged monarchs have completed their lifecycle and fall to the forest floor, locals in the area will retrieve monarch with tags and turn them into monarch watch for money. Monarch watch will then put out their list of tags that they recovered in Mexico, and—hopefully—I can report that one of ours made it to Mexico at that time!
A special thanks to the gardeners, natural areas team and everyone who worked so hard to make our meadows that attract the butterflies we caught, especially the cosmo field in Beckely Creek Park! Another big thank you to all the volunteers who helped us tag! It would not have been such a big success with out you all!
Interested in helping the monarch population?
- Join the Monarch Watch tagging program – go to shop.monarchwatch.org to order a tagging kit of your own. Tagging kits may be ordered at any time but they are shipped beginning August 1st to arrive ahead of the migration. Go to https://monarchwatch.org/tagging/ to get specific information on how to properly catch, tag and release monarch butterflies. Monarch tagging in Kentucky begins in late August. Look out for monarch tagging programs with us next year or donate a butterfly net for use in our future monarch tagging events!
- Make habitat for Monarchs – The population decline of Monarchs is in large part due to habitat loss. Monarchs rely on the Milkweed plant to feed on in their caterpillar stage. This wildflower once grew in abundance; however, farms and urbanization have wiped out many native meadows where it once grew. There are many places you can buy Milkweed plants to grow in your own yard to help add more habitat for monarchs. This is an awesome experience because you can watch as the caterpillars grow. You may even find chrysalises near your home, and if you get lucky, watch as they emerge into a butterfly