Monarch butterfly tagging at Mequon Nature Preserve
October 2, 2019 | Topics: Events
By Jamie Schiesel
Photographs by Eddee Daniel
Migrating Monarch butterflies are attracted to the Mequon Nature Preserve each September by its restored and welcoming habitat. Eager human volunteers are also attracted—by the butterflies!
On September 7th Mequon Nature Preserve held its annual onsite Monarch tagging event. This citizen science project enlists the help of volunteers both young and old to collect adult Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) that are making their way south on their migration route. In Wisconsin, we see four generations of Monarchs, the first three living and dying in the state after only two to six weeks. The fourth generation, often referred to as “super Monarchs”, live much longer at six to eight months! These are the kin responsible for making the long southern journey to Mexico.
Scientists and butterfly lovers alike are curious about this amazing journey, as well as the success rate of Monarchs. In North America, Monarchs have taken a steep decline in population density over the past 40 years, with estimates as high as an 80-97% drop. Because of this, efforts should be made by all nature enthusiasts to help understand and preserve these remarkable creatures. Organizations such as Monarch Watch do just that through their recruitment of citizen scientists.
Tagging Monarchs involves catching them on the wing or while pollinating flowers, and then attaching a small sticker to their wing. The sticker contains identification information. Other information accompanies each sticker’s unique ID code, such as: date it was caught, location, sex, and whether it was a reared or wild specimen. This information is then submitted to Monarch Watches database to help further its research.
During this year’s event volunteers were able to capture and tag 25 Monarchs, double that of last year’s 13! In addition, we identified many other butterfly species on the preserve, such as Viceroys, Painted Ladies, Silver spotted Skippers, Swallowtails, and Pearl Crescents.
Mequon Nature Preserve strives to educate and involve the public with fun and scientifically relevant projects and looks forward to next year’s tagging!
Jamie Schiesel is an Educator at the Mequon Nature Preserve.
Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks.
The Mequon Nature Preserve is a project partner of A Wealth of Nature.