Monarch Tagging at the Sioux City Prairie

 On September 8th, about 40 people met at the Sioux City Prairie on Talbot Road to tag monarch butterflies.  It was great to see that both young and young at heart attended!Theresa Kruid, a naturalist at Dorothy Pecaut, welcomed everyone and shared some information about monarch butterflies.  The monarchs that we see in the fall are the migratory ones who are on their way to Mexico.  These monarchs can live up to eight or nine months in Mexico!  They will begin to journey north in the spring.  The females will lay their eggs and “their children” will continue the journey north.  The journey continues into Canada and back to the United States as the females lay their eggs and “the children” continue the journey.  The monarchs that we see in the fall could be the great, great grandchildren of the ones that we saw a year ago!  There are usually four generations of monarchs in this whole cycle!

Theresa showed us the stickers that are used for tagging the monarchs.  They are small round tags that are attached to the upper right wing.  They are provided by Monarch Watch.  Researchers in Mexico are able to find the tagged butterflies and are able to determine where the butterflies traveled from.  Theresa said that a number of the ones released from Dorothy Pecaut have been found in Mexico.  One of mine that was released in Bronson was also found in Mexico!  Theresa said that the tags do not hurt the monarchs and do not affect their ability to fly.

After Theresa shared more information, it was time to tag the three that had been brought and release them!  She tagged and then had some of the children release them.  They quickly took off and found a good resting place in the trees surrounding the prairie.  As Theresa tagged, she filled in the information on the Monarch Watch recording sheet.  She recorded the tag code, which is the code that identifies that monarch.  She also noted the date, place of release, male or female and whether the butterfly was reared or found in the wild.

Now it was time for everyone to begin their hunt for monarchs!  A few participants brought their own nets.  One young boy proudly showed me his new net!  It even had pictures of some of the butterflies that he could catch.  Theresa had brought nets and we set off into the prairie.  We saw lots of prairie grasses and goldenrods, but few monarchs at first.  The weather was perfect for monarchs to be traveling through and as evening drew near, many monarchs arrived to roost in the trees for a good night’s rest!  The group soon began gathering by the trees and catching the monarchs with their nets.  Each monarch was tagged and released.  Melinda Z. from Bronson said that she spied a monarch on a thistle and worked really hard to catch her with her net.  Her butterfly was tagged and released.  It’s hard to imagine that a monarch whose weight is about equal to a paper clip could be so difficult to catch!  At the end of the evening, 47 monarchs had been tagged and released!

I’m excited to learn that Sioux City is working on providing a monarch habitat that will open in the spring.  It is three acres and is located by the waste-water treatment plant.  It will be planted with a pollinator mix that should attract lots of monarchs!  It will provide nectar and shelter to attract not only monarchs, but other pollinating insects and migratory grassland birds.  This habitat is also going to be a learning area which will have informational kiosks that will provide information about our marvelous monarchs!  Thank you so much Sioux City!

Mary Siepker, Monarch Whisperer...Teacher

     

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