By Ellen Guiling
When the temperatures begin to drop, we pull out our long sleeves, then our sweaters, then possibly a coat. Monarchs have a better plan, they just head down to Mexico! Many of the Monarchs begin their trip as far north as Canada, and will travel many miles to get to their wintering grounds. Lucky for us, the Central Flyway, a major migration path, runs right through Texas. This is a time that Monarch enthusiasts jump for joy! Perhaps these Monarch lovers are frantically waving a net around and jumping at the same time. This behavior is an indication that the person is a Monarch tagger, attempting to catch a Monarch, then tag and release it. Admittedly, I am one of those persons. And there are other North Texas Master Naturalists doing the same thing.
There are a few comments and questions that us taggers get on a regular basis. Let’s answer some of these now!
Why are you putting tags on the Monarchs? These tags have an alphanumeric code specific to the tag. When a Monarch with a tag is found or photographed in Mexico or elsewhere, it is possible to report that code, and find out where the Monarch was tagged!
Who is in charge of this tagging and who keeps track of all of the information? Monarch Watch based at the University of Kansas. Visit their website for all things Monarch! www.monarchwatch.org
Does the tag make it hard for the Monarch to fly? No, it does not. As seen in the photo, the tag is a small dot. It is placed in a very particular spot “on the mitten” of the lower wing.
I am afraid I will hurt the butterfly when I handle it! If you are cautious, the butterfly will not be damaged. They are pretty strong critters, and their scales do not easily slip off like with some other butterflies and moths.
I should rush home and plant some milkweed this fall for the butterflies! Not really necessary! While flying south, the Monarch is most likely in reproductive diapause, not mating and laying eggs. (You will notice that some monarchs did not get the memo!) Native milkweed is crucial in the spring, when the Monarchs fly north and lay eggs which turn into larvae that will dine on the milkweed. Planting the milkweed in the fall is a good idea, but not because the Monarch larvae need it for nourishment in the fall.
I am interested in tagging, but have not had a class or any instruction. That’s OK!! Tagging can be explained in a few easy steps. Although it is too late to tag this year, please contact me to get on the list for tagging next year! firstname.lastname@example.org
Have any of the Monarchs that you have tagged ever been found? Yes! I tagged a Monarch on October 12, 2017 at the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills which was later found at the El Rosario Sanctuary near Anganuego, Michoacan, Mexico, a flight of 1100 miles!