Why tag Monarch Butterflies? By tagging monarchs we have found a way to prove the start (from the location the tag is placed on) and end of a Monarch's journey. It is a way to add to education, conservation and research. One can also have fun and enjoyment out of this process. The tagging program is run by the University of Kansas Entomology Program called Monarch Watch. They also have a wonderful website filled with information. Click on button.
To participate in the tagging program, one must become a member through the Monarch Watch website. The tags are limited to 300,000 or less a year depending upon their budget and it is advised to order them early as they sell out before the migration season ends. I placed my order in May.
The kit arrives depending upon your location and when the migration will be going through your area. My tags arrived the second week of August since I lived in Wisconsin. I was still finding eggs then, so I did not tag until the 23rd of August. Your kit contains data sheets to record the necessary data used for research and a newsletter with information on how to tag. On the data sheets, you record various information, such as the date and tag number. I tagged wild monarchs and monarchs that I raised. The Monarchs that you raise have to have their wings dry after emerging. It is best not to tag them for 3-4 hours, otherwise, the tags may not stick.
Before you begin tagging, setup your area first.
To remove the stickers from the sheet, I took a toothpick and caught an edge, but not too much of the sticker. I then placed the sticker upside down, while I went to catch a Monarch. I had previously made copies of my data sheets just in case I made a mistake. That way I could also write sloppy and redo them later.
Ensure you are catching Monarch butterflies and not Viceroys or Queens. On the Viceroys the lines on the wings are different and the Queens are darker in color.
Do research on the WEB to be able to identify your butterfly species properly. You will need a net and I suggest one practice catching Monarchs. It is not as easy as one may think. Also, practice removing the Monarch from the net and holding them like you would when you place the tag on the butterfly. You want a firm yet gentle hold of the Monarch near its body so the wings will not flutter and be damaged.
We have heard that touching a Monarch's wings damages its wings. As long as your fingers are dry and you do not rub the wings, you will not cause any damage. On one particularly hot day, my hands started to become clammy and I stopped and washed my hands and dried them before continuing.
male Monarch - Notice in the insert the two black dots in the veins. These are the scent glands on the lower wings.
After tagging is completed, fill out your datasheets and return them to Monarch Watch. Over 3 years I tagged 300 Monarchs. I had 7 recoveries in Mexico. I also found one Monarch with a tag from a nearby city This was a fun project to do.
I'm ready for my flight.
All photos, background and buttons are copyrighted by Sue.