Catching and tagging monarch butterflies as they migrate south to their overwintering sites in Florida and Mexico is one of the joys of fall for many people. There is something about running around in fields of tall wildflowers holding a net above your head, racing monarchs that brings a smile to every face, young and old.
This past month, the Conservation District partnered with Upper Valley Land Trust at Up on the Hill Conservation Area in Charlestown to teach people about monarch migration. There was a great turn out on a beautiful day and 26 monarchs were tagged on their way south. Monarchs fly up to 2500 miles to their overwintering site each fall and the same individuals begin the journey north again in early spring. This phenomenon is even more amazing when you consider that it is the great-great grandchildren of these migrating monarchs that make the long journey again next fall.
Monarch Tagging is a citizen science program of Monarch Watch out of the University of Kansas. Each tag has a unique number/letter sequence like license plates that allows individual butterflies to be identified if they are recapture further south or if the tag is recovered on the forest floor at the overwintering site. Data collected has the potential to answer many important questions about monarch biology and conservation including the following: determining the pathways taken by migrating monarchs, the influence of weather on the migration, and the survival rate of monarchs.
This program is a great way to teach people of all ages about interdependence and connect them in a positive way to the natural world. The joy they feel helps them to care for special places like the Up on the Hill Conservation Area and hopefully will inform decisions they make later in life regarding conservation of natural resources, which we all rely on.