I was following around a monarch butterfly at Nature Boardwalk the other day, trying to get a decent photograph, when I noticed something unusual about this particular insect. As you might imagine, flying insects don’t pose for pictures very well, so I’d been pursuing this particular butterfly for a while. Luckily that gave me time to realize it had a sticker on one of its wings! As a biologist, I’m familiar with many ways that scientists track wildlife, but stickers on butterflies was something new for me.
Monarch butterfly showing an identification tag. See the little circular white sticker?
Although I couldn’t read the sticker or get a clear photo to make sure, this looks like a sticker from Monarch Watch. This is a research program that supplies people with tags to mark monarch butterflies. They do this so that scientists can learn more about their fascinating migration between Mexico and Canada and the United States.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get close enough to this monarch to read the numbers on the sticker, so this monarch’s history will remain a secret. Regardless, it is on its way, and it was able to refuel for its journey at Nature Boardwalk. Interestingly, we’ve been hoping to see monarch butterflies at Nature Boardwalk and even planted specific plants to encourage their visits, such as common milkweed and butterfly weed (also a member of the milkweed family of plants).
Monarch butterfly visiting Nature Boardwalk for a meal.
Observing monarch butterflies has inspired me to start surveying for other butterfly species. Stay tuned for more about the butterflies of Nature Boardwalk in the weeks to come!