Photos are by and of BCAS Education Director Marie Longo tagging Monarchs last week
September is a wonderful month as migrating raptors, songbirds and the brilliant fall colors bring nature lovers of all ages out to places like the Meadowlands to relish all the marvels of our environment. Along with all the other natural wonders of September, there is one of the most incredible and dramatic events of the season: the migration of the Monarch butterfly.
Like many of our migrating birds, the Regal Monarch is heading south also, to Mexico to be precise. And to help track that difficult and arduous journey, Monarchs are being tagged in order to help scientists gain information to aid this fast disappearing species.
Marie Longo, education director for Bergen County Audubon Society is an expert at tagging Monarchs and has been participating in the program for years now. “Monarch tagging is a citizen science project led by Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas,” Marie said. “The tags are shipped in August, prime time for the beginning of Monarch migration. It takes a bit of skill to capture the butterflies. I’ve learned this through trial and error.
“The tag is placed on the discal cell of the hind wing and cannot be removed without tearing the wing, so there is no margin for error. Each tag is numbered and after the butterfly is tagged, the tag number, gender, whether captive or wild and location gets recorded on data sheets. The data sheets are submitted to Monarch Watch via mail or email at the end of the season.
“If the Monarch survives the long, perilous migration journey to Mexico, the tags are recovered and reported to Monarch Watch. Monarch Watch posts a list of recovered tags in the spring. I eagerly anticipate the posting of the list each year to see if one of my tagged Monarchs has been reported.”
On Saturday, Sept. 17, a Monarch that Marie tagged on Aug. 26 was photographed by Dan Onorevole at DeKorte Park , the original tagging site. The fact that this Monarch was still at the same sight may give scientists important information that they could not get without the tagging program.
Monarch populations have dropped 90 percent over the past 20 years and may be headed for the endangered species list. Habitat destruction on their wintering grounds, lack of their host plant milkweed, loss of native wildflowers for nectar and the overuse of pesticides all contribute to their dramatic declining numbers. If you see a tagged Monarch do not try to catch it. Instead ther get a photo and try to read the tag number and please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more info on Monarch watch go to http://monarchwatch.org/