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

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 tag@ku.edu 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.

Butterflies will blow your mind: A new Giant Screen Theatre film gives viewers new respect for migrating Monarchs

If you — like me — have long thought of butterflies as delicate, simple creatures, you have been sorely mistaken.

A new Giant Screen Theatre film, Flight of the Butterflies, opens tomorrow and frames familiar Monarch butterflies in a new light as masters of migration. The film follows the life’s work of Dr. Fred Urquhart and his wife in stunning 3D as they tag and track the migratory patterns of Monarch butterflies. After 40 years of tracking and thanks to the  help of thousands of citizen scientists, the Urquharts were finally able to unlock the mystery of Monarch migration and identify their winter gathering place in remote mountaintops of Mexico.

Flight of the ButterfliesAnd it’s not just the visual spectacle that’s stunning. Did you know that a super-butterfly is born every third generation that lives longer and flies farther than its predecessors? Or that this Super Generation that makes the extended trek from Canada all the way to Mexico can fly as much as mile up in the air, catching rides on the wind? It challenges your perception of butterflies as erratic, delicate things, that’s for sure. They’re marksmen; weathering one of the longest migrations on earth to target an isolated mountaintop they’ve never even seen with incredible accuracy. Even our great state of Texas is featured, in all its bluebonnet-blanketed glory.

Make it a butterfly-filled weekend with the Semi-Annual Plant Sale and you can even establish a garden to help these guys along! For a schedule of showings, click here.