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.
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?
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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:
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.