BBEMA tagging Monarch butterflies to track late summer migration

This August through to mid-sept, BBEMA will be helping to track monarch butterflies by capturing and tagging the insects before they start their migration south.

Monarchs are a species of concern in Canada. A warm winter has meant a good year for the insects, but the trend in their population is downwards, mostly due to destruction of habitat.

Protection of habitat is complicated by the butterfly’s migration – up to 8,000 kilometers from P.E.I. to Mexico.  In order to preserve it we have to protect it in Canada, United States and Mexico – PEI’s butterflies go through eastern United States all the way down into Souther Mexico.  Currently the species is classified as Near Threatened (International Status) and likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future – which is why we want to act now to work with people to increase potential habitat sources and monitor current population trends.

BBEMA is tagging the butterflies with stickers so more can be learned about the path they follow on their migration. BBEMA staff use a toothpick to place a small round stick near the base of the butterfly’s wing – each sticker contains a specially coded identification – subsequentlty for each Monarch a data sheet is filled out identifying the individual butterfly code, weither it is Male or Female, the captive raised or wild caught and the release date and location.   The data is entered into an international data base under BBEMA’s code and when the butterflies reach the winter breeding grounds in Southern Mexico the tagged butterflies ae collected by locals (locals are paid $5.00 US per tagged Monarch) the tag data ids entered into the data base down there and hopefully BBEMA’s Monarchs codes will get flagged…subsequently we will learn where PEI Monarchs migrate to (which areas of Mexico.

Placement of the tag is very important – you have to put it on close to the body so it doesn’t unbalance the monarch – the tag itself is actually only one per cent of its body weight.”

On Wednesday August 15th – BBEMA provided a tagging demonstration at the Old Home week Fair  – the taged Monarchs were then carefully handed to a group of children to release, who watched them flutter off in a swirl of orange – the joy and excitement that you see on the faces on the children is totally contagious.

With luck, some of these butterflies will be spotted on their way to Mexico, giving conservationists a better idea what areas need to be protected to help them survive.