Tagging a monarch

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I finally saw monarchs in the backyard in late August. Soon after that, I found several small caterpillars on my tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) and butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). I brought the caterpillars inside, and they eventually made chrysalises. Recently the first butterfly emerged. The dark spots on the lower wings indicated it was a male.

photo by Amanda Cawby
Photo by Amanda Cawby

I have wanted for some time to tag a monarch and had ordered tags from Monarch Watch. This is an enlarged photo of one of the adhesive tags. Its actual size is about 1/4th inch, or the diameter of a pencil.

monarch tag

I appreciated a friend, Mary Carol Cooper, holding the butterfly as I placed the tag.

Monarch butterfly with tag
Photo by Amanda Cawby

We then released the monarch to go on his way – to Mexico, I hope. I recorded the tag number, date, location, etc. for Monarch Watch’s database. They are especially interested to learn where the butterflies show up in Mexico, and Mexicans receive the equivalent of $5 for each tag they recover. If one of my tags is found, Monarch Watch will let me know.

It was quite satisfying to do my first tagging. Monarch Watch provided excellent instructions and it was relatively easy. However, I think it  helps to have two folks involved – one to hold the butterfly and one to place the tag.

Monarchs need our help, and I like doing what I can.

10 thoughts on “Tagging a monarch”

    1. And you are a great one, Judy. A friend recently brought me yours and Wayne’s “What’s Bugging You?” article from the August Kentucky Living. It’s a great article with excellent photos. Keep up the good work.

  1. I find it amazing that such delicate appearing creatures are not
    so delicate afterall and that they can not only heft what I would think a heavy
    load when glued to their wing and still make it all they way to Mexico. I wonder: are all butterflies as hardy?

    1. Yes, Beth, I agree it is amazing. However, they’ve been doing this for several years and the butterflies do get to Mexico with tags on. As for other butterflies, some others do migrate southward but not as far as Mexico and I’ve never heard of any other butterflies being tagged.

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