Help HMNS track monarch migration! Look for these tags on monarch butterflies in Houston and report back.

November 12, 2012

Join the league of citizen scientists by helping HMNS track the migratory patterns of monarch butterflies. Taking a page from zoologist and monarch expert Dr. Fred Urquhart’s book, HMNS staff caught and tagged dozens of monarch butterflies as part of a national effort to track their migration from Canada to Mexico.

Track monarchs with HMNS!You can help our efforts by keeping an eye out for monarchs in the Houston area with tags on their wings. These small, circular tags were designed for this very purpose, with heat-activated adhesive that responds to the warm touch of gentle volunteers. Pretty cool, huh?

Track monarchs with HMNS!If you spot a live monarch flitting about with one of these tags, give yourself a pat on the back for your excellent eyesight and keep moving. Monarch wings are covered in tiny, delicate scales, so don’t try to snatch it. But if you spot a deceased monarch with a tag, stop and pick it up. You may be holding a world traveler.

Track monarchs with HMNS!Every fourth generation of monarch butterfly is a “super generation” that travels thousands of miles and lives 10 times as long as their predecessors. There is no physical distinction that separates these superhero insects from their peers, but HMNS Horticulturalist Zac Stayton recommends looking for extra wear-and-tear on the wings, suggesting these specimens may have traveled farther. He also notes that the super-generation seems less preoccupied with mating.

(And — a testament to our great state of Texas — there are entire populations of monarchs that, once arriving in the Lone Star State, opt never to leave.)

If you find a deceased monarch butterfly with its wing tagged, note the sex and report your keen-eyed sighting to or by calling 1-888-TAGGING.

You can tell the gender of a monarch by looking at its wings. The males have two black dots, like so:

Track monarchs with HMNS!To learn more about the advent of citizen scientists and how curious everyday citizens helped pin down the migratory patterns of monarchs, see our Giant Screen Theatre film, Flight of the Butterflies.

Authored By Caroline Gallay

Caroline was the Digital Media Editor at HMNS from 2012 to 2013. She was responsible for telling the Museum’s story online. You could find Caroline on the site profiling characters around the museum and making sure you knew what the what was going on around this crazy/awesome place.

5 responses to “Help HMNS track monarch migration! Look for these tags on monarch butterflies in Houston and report back.”

  1. Greg Johnson says:

    I did this as a kid in fifth grade in Canada, and met Dr. Urquhart… in fact, I believe he was related to my teacher that year. We tagged hundreds or thousands of Monarchs as part of a study he was doing for the University of Toronto.

    How cool to see this, 35 years later!

    Greg Johnson
    Sugar Land


    Spotted what appeared to be a female monarch flitting about The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough NH on Tues 9/20/16 with a tag that looks like one of yours:

    WPH 848

  3. Cindy Horner says:

    We saw a tagged monarch today, Sept. 24, 2016, in Lincoln, NE. It was on flowers in the Sunken Gardens. The tag code was WMT 086.( I left a message on your tag line too.) I never knew about tagging butterflies!

  4. Lise Clément says:

    We saw a tagged monarch today, Sept. 30, 2016, we leave in Laval city, Quebec, Canada in flowers, he is alive. The tag code was WAA252. 🙂

  5. Deborah Fairchild says:

    A student from Westmount High School found a dead tagged monarch on Mount Royal Montreal in Montreal QC. Oct 11 2016
    The tag # was WAE 092
    I saw no links to report the tag on the website and the phone number did not exist.
    Could you please report the tag?

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