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Tagging Monarch Butterflies.

You can do the important and exciting work of a scientist in your own backyard! During late summer through fall, monarch butterflies travel across large areas of North America. Scientists want to understand more about monarch migration. Citizen-scientists just like you have helped by tagging over 1 million monarch butterflies.

In the last 30 years, the monarch population has gone down a lot. They are now an endangered species. Over 1 million monarchs were counted in the winter of 1998. Just 17 years later, in 2015, only 272,000 were counted. One reason for this is the destruction of the milkweed plant. Monarchs lay their eggs on this plant, and it is the only thing monarch caterpillars will eat. Also, acres of trees in the Mexican forest, where many monarchs go for the winter, have been cut down.

Monarch butterflies are different from other butterflies. They migrate thousands of miles each year. To help protect monarchs during migration, the Monarch Joint Venture was created. The MJV includes over 50 groups from all over the US. They are on a mission to learn as much about monarchs as they can. Each group has people who track monarchs and organize tagging events during migration. It takes a lot of people to protect these butterflies.

The best time to find monarch butterflies is on warm, sunny days in the morning or late afternoon. The bright orange and black colors of a monarch make them easy to spot. During a tagging event, you find out how to tell a monarch from other look-alike butterflies. You learn how to tell if a monarch is male or female and how to sneak up on one slowly from behind, so it doesn't see you. You will be taught how to hold the butterfly and how to place the tag on its wing. Then you simply let the butterfly fly away. Congratulations! You just tagged your first monarch.

How far will your monarch travel? Do you think your butterfly will fly to Mexico or California? Monarch butterflies may look fragile, but they are very strong. They fly even in the wind and rain. When monarchs arrive at their winter location in California or Mexico, they bunch together in big clumps on tree limbs and branches.

When a tagged monarch is found and reported in a distant location, it is called a recovery. The MJV has recorded over 16,000 monarch butterfly recoveries.

A monarch butterfly's location is written down when it is first tagged. Recovered butterflies tell us how far they traveled. The distances that monarchs fly during migration can be amazing. In February 2016, a female monarch was recovered near Macheros, Mexico, after flying 1158 miles from her Albuquerque, New Mexico, tagging location. That's a long way to fly!

Monarch tagging is a team activity. So find a friend and a butterfly net, and join in the fun at a tagging event near where you live.

You Can Tag a Monarch!

Would you like to help scientists protect an endangered species? With a parent, learn about Monarch Joint Venture online at: To discover monarch tagging events near you, go to:

by Mary Humecke

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Author:Humecke, Mary
Publication:Fun For Kidz
Geographic Code:1U8NM
Date:May 1, 2018
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