Monarch Tagging
at Bald Eagle State Park, Pennsylvania
September 17, 2005


After a morning of clouds, rain, and drizzle, the weather became brighter and the sun popped through here and there. Monarchs, such as the one below, flew over large swarths of golden rod blossoms and occasionally drop down to sip some nectar.
Monarch on golden rod

Net over monarch

The first monarch capture of the day was accomplished by park ranger Spring Reilly.

About a dozen of us, of all ages and sizes, showed up to help Spring capture butterflies for tagging.

The capture technique for using a butterfly net is holding the pole with one hand while the other hand holds the end of the net - while the butterfly has landed anywhere. (To capture a butterfly in flight risks damaging its wings.) The logic behind the technique is that with the end of the net pointing skyward, the netted monarch attempts to fly upward (and winds up deeper within the mesh).

Clever monarchs (and there are a fair number of these) escape the net by flying downward, and in a meadow of tall goden rod, there is much opportunity to escape. That is especially true if I'm on net duty.

On capture, the monarch is taken to a butterfly corral, a tall cylinder of mesh (along with some golden rod blossoms for food rations and a damp paper towel for drink). Below, the captured butterflies flutter about while waiting for that special moment.
The monarch reside in a butterfly home
And this is what it is all about: a butterfly brand, which is a small stick-on circle containing capture data. The stick-on is exceedingly light and goes on that place of the butterfly wing which will not interfere with a monarch's aerodynamics, its ability to fly.

A tagged butterfly held by Sue

The key information on the tag is the GGP number.
Closeup of a monarch tag
The GGP number corresponds to a data sheet that notes where and when the monarch was captured, as well as the sex of the butterfly.

The monarchs' lifecycle involes a migration that goes south to Mexico for winter and north throughout the United States in spring. Monarch tagging helps keep track of overall butterfly movement and numbers.

After the tagging, the monarch is released and is free to enjoy the open meadows again.

Photo note: I used a Pentax *ist D, with the SMC-A* 200mm macro lens.  

2005 Wildlife Resource Festival at BESP   |   Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly

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